State of the OSR: so, what did I miss?

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DeadBob

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Never met anyone who thought it was required since started playing in ~1978. I wanted to do the whole domain thing as a player but never found a DM or other players who were into it....to much book keeping and responsibility I guess. This whole domain thing being part of the creators and their original players vision I suspect was due to their coming from miniature war games.
Undoubtedly the source of it, and that it absolutely exploded with people soon enough who had no background in that sort of gaming almost certainly led to it becoming something of an evolutionary dead end In gaming styles.

I kinda wish someone would officiallY make something old school ish that flipped the script, and the individual character scope stuff really was the side show rather than the main event again. I don’t want it as the majority style overall, just a well documented and understood style.
 
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robertsconley

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I kinda wish someone would officiallY make something old school ish that flipped the script, and the individual character scope stuff really was the side show rather than the main event again. I don’t want it as the majority style overall, just a well documented and understood style.
Well speaking as someone who is known to let players trash his setting. Does this qualify?
From the Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG
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I may the entire chapter a free download

While I only released the Basic rules for now. I have the rest 90% written and it will be my main project after I release Into the Majestic Fantasy Realms.

Like in life characters don't exist in a vacuum ambitious plans require scope which means stuff like mass combat, merchant trade, and running an estate become not just a goal but a means to achieve whatever it is the player has in mind.
 

LikelyArrow

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With all due respect, a quick and easy fix isn't adequate to change core features of the system.
I just realized I meant to respond to this comment but got sidetracked by the BrOSR side conversation in here.

I fundamentally agree with your first statement, but disagree that amount of hp, xp or spells are core features of D&D that can't be easily changed. Those values specifically have varied quite a bit between even otherwise-very-similar editions.

OD&D's 3LBBs use d6 hit dice for all classes, don't give out new HD every level, and have no maximum number of hit dice. You get 100xp/HD for monsters (and not necessarily split between the party — it's not clear at all how that was supposed to work), and gave no spells to first level clerics.

Then with the Greyhawk supplement the hit dice were made to vary, capped the number of hit dice a character could have to name-level, and drastically reduced xp awards for monsters; B/X maintained essentially all of these changes. Fast-forward to AD&D, and the size of almost all the hit dice get a bump, and clerics not only get a spell at first level, they get bonus spells for high wisdom. Then 2e removed xp-for-gold and gave bonus spells to specialist magic-users.

So all of these features have varied quite a bit across just the old-school editions, and changing them evidently doesn't really break anything.
 

Brock Savage

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I just realized I meant to respond to this comment but got sidetracked by the BrOSR side conversation in here.

I fundamentally agree with your first statement, but disagree that amount of hp, xp or spells are core features of D&D that can't be easily changed. Those values specifically have varied quite a bit between even otherwise-very-similar editions.

OD&D's 3LBBs use d6 hit dice for all classes, don't give out new HD every level, and have no maximum number of hit dice. You get 100xp/HD for monsters (and not necessarily split between the party — it's not clear at all how that was supposed to work), and gave no spells to first level clerics.

Then with the Greyhawk supplement the hit dice were made to vary, capped the number of hit dice a character could have to name-level, and drastically reduced xp awards for monsters; B/X maintained essentially all of these changes. Fast-forward to AD&D, and the size of almost all the hit dice get a bump, and clerics not only get a spell at first level, they get bonus spells for high wisdom. Then 2e removed xp-for-gold and gave bonus spells to specialist magic-users.

So all of these features have varied quite a bit across just the old-school editions, and changing them evidently doesn't really break anything.
I was probably being unclear. My point was that changing the qualities of B/X listed below to match the sensibilities of younger players would be a lot of work; so much work that it's probably better to try another edition.
  • Characters are fragile
  • Glacially slow advancement
  • Only option for Fighters in combat is "I hit it with my weapon" or playing mother may I with the DM
  • Magic Users are walking, talking single charge magic items
 
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LikelyArrow

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I was probably being unclear. My point was that changing the qualities of B/X listed below to match the sensibilities of younger players would be a lot of work; so much work that it's probably better to try another edition.
Gotcha. Yeah, that's fair. The differences between B/X and 5e run deep.
 

Akrasia

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It especially irks me because while OSRIC was good for it’s time, 15 years later it’s definitely showing its age - both in terms of its “enthusiastic amateur” presentation and all of the minor rules differences and omissions that were felt to be necessary at the time but not any more (if OSE Classic can reproduce the rules of BX D&D 100% faithfully there’s absolutely room for something closer to AD&D than OSRIC). Necrotic Gnome could have done a faithful recreation of AD&D, but decided instead to do something very different (and IMO worse).

You have the skills to fix this or know people that could fix this so encourage them.

I have been saying that the OSR belongs to those that do for years. If AD&D 1e is to be more prominent then it needs people who are willing to do the work. Gavin Norman was willing to do the work several times before he got it into its present form.

OSRIC is and always will be given away for free in pdf and at-cost in print so there is not and never will be a budget for anything that can’t be done on a 100% volunteer basis, and the original creators of OSRIC have shown zero interest in changing that. The OSRIC 2.0 rulebook was a minor miracle because a ton of people (including me) stepped up to provide their time and services for free because we believed it was important. That lightning isn’t going to be caught in the bottle twice (especially since at least 2 of those people - Jim Kramer who did the layout and Jason Zavoda who did the indexes - are no longer living).

A big issue here is that OSRIC is not 100% open content. 2/3rd of the content is product identity sharable only under the OSRIC license. Chapter I to III covers Creating a Character, Spells, How to Play. That limits the pool of people who are authorized to work on OSRIC . I have been mentioning this problem for years. Until somebody makes a close clone that is as open as Old School Essentials, Labyrinth, or Swords & Wizardry, the AD&D slice of the classic D&D hobby is going to be hobbled.

But on the other to raise a counterpoint to the above there are 890 OSRIC related products on DriveThru, compared to Labyrinth Lord with 1,203, OSE with 352, and Swords & Wizardry with 1,008. So it may behind the two B/X Version and S&W but it not that far behind. Perhaps there isn't a AD&D problem at all.

OSRIC created the OSR and was (and remains) a remarkable work. I prefer it to most later retro-clones and have used it alongside the AD&D books in the past (usually for rules clarification). But my impression is that it will not be updated?

If that's so, I wonder how difficult it would be to "build up" S&W into something pretty close to AD&D? Call it "Advanced S&W" (or "1980 S&W" or whatever) and use the S&W rules to simulate a proper interpretation of the 1e rules. (S&W Complete already includes a lot of material from the supplements, that eventually would be integrated into AD&D.) Since Matt Finch was involved in both projects (although his attention obviously shifted entirely to S&W later) perhaps he would not be opposed to such a project.

Such a 1e clone would not be constrained by the product identity issue. And perhaps funds could be raised for high quality covers, interior art, etc.

Eh, just an idle thought.
 

Sable Wyvern

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Basically (no pun intended), I'm looking for something that handles the CMI part of BECMI, and not just the BE.

There are a number of options out there that can handle the lower levels, but if I am trying to replicate the whole shebang, the options get thinner (and I'm not sure if they exist).
I would strongly suggest taking a look at ACKS. It only covers the B/X 1 - 14 level range, but within that range includes rules for mass combat, higher level spells via ritual magic, magic research and item construction, hijinks and thieves guilds, mercantile ventures, domain management etc ...

On the other hand, if you really want the full level 1 - 36 experience, there are some options. Dark Dungeons is a Rule Cyclopedia clone
 

Nick J

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OSRIC created the OSR and was (and remains) a remarkable work. I prefer it to most later retro-clones and have used it alongside the AD&D books in the past (usually for rules clarification). But my impression is that it will not be updated?

If that's so, I wonder how difficult it would be to "build up" S&W into something pretty close to AD&D? Call it "Advanced S&W" (or "1980 S&W" or whatever) and use the S&W rules to simulate a proper interpretation of the 1e rules. (S&W Complete already includes a lot of material from the supplements, that eventually would be integrated into AD&D.) Since Matt Finch was involved in both projects (although his attention obviously shifted entirely to S&W later) perhaps he would not be opposed to such a project.

Such a 1e clone would not be constrained by the product identity issue. And perhaps funds could be raised for high quality covers, interior art, etc.

Eh, just an idle thought.
S&W Complete is pretty close to AD&D 1e. Classes are a bit toned down, ability score modifiers aren't as extreme, and it's firmly rooted in OD&D mechanics, but when I ran a few games with it, it felt very, very close to 1e.
 

Dyrnwyn

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I would strongly suggest taking a look at ACKS. It only covers the B/X 1 - 14 level range, but within that range includes rules for mass combat, higher level spells via ritual magic, magic research and item construction, hijinks and thieves guilds, mercantile ventures, domain management etc ...

On the other hand, if you really want the full level 1 - 36 experience, there are some options. Dark Dungeons is a Rule Cyclopedia clone

I've looked at Dark Dungeons X since my post about this, and it seems to be what I had in mind. It makes a small number of changes, but I'm okay with those.

I'd also consider porting in some the rules and class options from the Mystara Gazeteers and supplements too.
 

robertsconley

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If that's so, I wonder how difficult it would be to "build up" S&W into something pretty close to AD&D?
500,000 words, OSRIC is pretty bare bones when it comes to verbiage for individual items. It's just the various lists of "stuff" are that extensive.

If the goal is cloning AD&D 1 at a minimum, we are looking at

  • Character Creations
  • Character Classes
  • Character Races
  • Spells
  • Equipment
  • Combat
  • Monster
  • Treasure

Then you have the following to consider
  • Campaign Support (Encounter Table, Dungeon Tables, advice, etc.)
  • NPCs (Rogues Gallery)
  • Intro Adventure
  • Proficiencies (Skills)
  • Expanded Combat (Specialization, etc.)
For example, the list of AD&D 1st M-U spells

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The list of B/X 1st level MU Spells

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While much of this can be a team effort the final work should be the work of a single author to give a "voice" to make it come alive has a rulebook compared to a reference. Not just in terms of the writing but the layout. Basically do what Gavin Norman did with OSE for B/X.

And it can't be a copy and paste. Each entry has to be re-written or re-edit into expressing the same idea in a different way.

Wrapping it up
This can be done but it will only be done is somebody is passionate about and committed to making all their work open content under a license. (OGL, CC, etc.) . In short this project will be their sole hobby when it come self-publishing stuff. For an example look at Joseph Bloch, Adventure Dark and Deep and it's genesis. Is started as Emprise! Around early 2010 and wasn't released until 2013.
 

Akrasia

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S&W Complete is pretty close to AD&D 1e. Classes are a bit toned down, ability score modifiers aren't as extreme, and it's firmly rooted in OD&D mechanics, but when I ran a few games with it, it felt very, very close to 1e.

Right. My idea would be to take S&W Complete and modify any differences so that they conform more or less to AD&D instead of 0D&D. And then add most of the things that are still missing (spells, magic items, rules for campaigns and NPCs, etc.). Introduce some minor revisions where necessary (clear initiative rules, simple unarmed combat rules). That would be quite a bit, as indicated by Robert's post above.
 

Akrasia

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And it can't be a copy and paste. Each entry has to be re-written or re-edit into expressing the same idea in a different way.

Wrapping it up
This can be done but it will only be done is somebody is passionate about and committed to making all their work open content under a license. (OGL, CC, etc.) . In short this project will be their sole hobby when it come self-publishing stuff.

Yeah, it's not something I could take on myself now (given work, family, other RPG interests, etc.). Maybe if I were retired or semi-retired.

But I think it would be a viable strategy for someone who wanted to do for AD&D what OSE did for B/X.
 

Brock Savage

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It's a shame that your players don't dig OSR stuff, because I would think Carcosa and C&T would go together like chocolate and peanut butter.
It's an age and generation thing. My one player who prefers OSR is in his late 40's like myself. The rest of them are 10-20 years younger. They all like OSR style of play (combat as war, XP for gold, time pressure etc) and weird fantasy settings but their reception to B/X was lukewarm. I could insist on continuing with B/X and they would go along but I'd rather have them enthusiastic about the system AND the setting.

I still draw most of my inspiration from OSR sources and strive to adhere to the spirit of the rules.
 

robertsconley

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I still draw most of my inspiration from OSR AD&D 1e sources and strive to adhere to the spirit of the rules.
With the above correction that basically the process I did with Fantasy Hero in the mid-80s and then later two decades with GURPS. So while I am sad that SJ Games never had a 3PP program for GURPS that worked for me. On the other hand, it wasn't that hard to get my notes and stuff working with OD&D in the form of Swords & Wizardry. Nor was it hard to start using 5e when it came out (to date I ran three 5e campaigns).
 

xanther

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It's an age and generation thing. My one player who prefers OSR is in his late 40's like myself. The rest of them are 10-20 years younger. They all like OSR style of play (combat as war, XP for gold, time pressure etc) and weird fantasy settings but their reception to B/X was lukewarm. I could insist on continuing with B/X and they would go along but I'd rather have them enthusiastic about the system AND the setting.

I still draw most of my inspiration from OSR sources and strive to adhere to the spirit of the rules.
Have to say I do like OSR style of play but never (even in the late 70s) thought D&D or any version or clone of it was the best rules system for it. OD&D and it's ilk are the best just because there is so little you need to move to the side. I'm in my 50s and play with others the same age or more, though we have some youngins' in their 30s.
 

Brock Savage

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Have to say I do like OSR style of play but never (even in the late 70s) thought D&D or any version or clone of it was the best rules system for it. OD&D and it's ilk are the best just because there is so little you need to move to the side. I'm in my 50s and play with others the same age or more, though we have some youngins' in their 30s.
What are the advantages of using OD&D instead of B/X?
 

TJS

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It's an age and generation thing. My one player who prefers OSR is in his late 40's like myself. The rest of them are 10-20 years younger. They all like OSR style of play (combat as war, XP for gold, time pressure etc) and weird fantasy settings but their reception to B/X was lukewarm. I could insist on continuing with B/X and they would go along but I'd rather have them enthusiastic about the system AND the setting.
I think the toughest sell of B/X is the lack of player choices. Some modern games that are not exactly OSR but draw clear inspiration from the OSR such as Numenera and Shadow of a Demon Lord, tend to toward something like OSR spirit on the GM side, but with a lot more player facing choices.

On a personal level I can look at OSR stuff and think "yeah this would be cool to run" but I almost never think "I want to play in this".
 

Nick J

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I think the toughest sell of B/X is the lack of player choices. Some modern games that are not exactly OSR but draw clear inspiration from the OSR such as Numenera and Shadow of a Demon Lord, tend to toward something like OSR spirit on the GM side, but with a lot more player facing choices.

On a personal level I can look at OSR stuff and think "yeah this would be cool to run" but I almost never think "I want to play in this".
The couple of exceptions I have to this rule are DCC RPG, LotFP and Sine Nomine's stuff. There's either just enough that's unique/different about them that the tone and style of games they evoke are enough to carry it forward (DCC and Lamentations), or in the case of Kevin Crawford's, Stars Without Number (and by extension Worlds Without Number), it's got as much Traveller in its DNA to make it scratch my preference for skill-based games.
 

cryptkeeper

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Ironically that's the one I think is easier to fix for several reasons.

Firstly B/X is unusual, even among old school games, for not having listed combat options in the way you require. I'm not saying play Flashing Blades necessarily, but there's a fair few games with the kind of hard coded actions you want listed, even if they describe them as guidelines.

Because of that, if you are playing a system without tactical options, it's very easy to just port them over and convert them to the system you're using. The only word of caution with doing so is that you need to keep an eye on fighters if you're using a class system. Without that, you risk the Fighter just being a bit better at something everyone else can do.
Arms Law from Iron Crown Enterprises was a response to such a feeling towards B/X. A "wouldn't it be great" idea which was commercially viable because they were right. "Stuff" like this is hella-cool to mod DnD with.
 

cryptkeeper

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I think the toughest sell of B/X is the lack of player choices. Some modern games that are not exactly OSR but draw clear inspiration from the OSR such as Numenera and Shadow of a Demon Lord, tend to toward something like OSR spirit on the GM side, but with a lot more player facing choices.

On a personal level I can look at OSR stuff and think "yeah this would be cool to run" but I almost never think "I want to play in this".
This is an extremely accurate statement. It can feel there is a lack of player choice in character concept and its construction. This reality, and its lack of popularity*, stopped being an issue for me when I appreciated the "point" of the DnD fighter. Once I paired my passion for pulp-fantasy literature with its treatment in the DnD game I am much more effective using Basic DnD as a game system when it fits the genre I am looking to emulate.

I don't necessarily even think it is any kind of problem. I think it is important to not talk-away from the great tool DnD is for running early pulp-fantasy fiction. If you want something else out of a fantasy game choose something else system-wise.

*(Of limited player options/builds, not of DnD itself.)
 

xanther

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What are the advantages of using OD&D instead of B/X?
Mostly familiarity (what we all started with) but also tone and much of what is added in B/X wouldn't use anyway. Now I do like species as class (IIRC that is in B/X). As to much else in OD&D we re-did the classes and level progression from day 1, not making uber classes or anything, just streamlining and lining up xp better. Having one xp table for all classes and adjusting other benefits to keep the power level roughly the same as the un-modified rules was one of the first house rules saw. When I say OD&D that includes supplements.
 

robertsconley

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I think the toughest sell of B/X is the lack of player choices. Some modern games that are not exactly OSR but draw clear inspiration from the OSR such as Numenera and Shadow of a Demon Lord, tend to toward something like OSR spirit on the GM side, but with a lot more player facing choices.
Lack of Player Choices? I made this for a cleric with B/X which I and those who I played with considered pretty distinct from a run-of-a-mill classic D&D cleric.
Johann Schwartz Front Ver 2.png Johann Schwartz Back Ver 2.png

The traditional objection to this is bring up Rule Zero. Which I think is a fallacy here.

The difference between running this guy in GURPS versus B/X is that nearly all the items on my sheet would have formal mechanics of one sort or another. Advantages, Disadvantages, spells, skills, etc. But the difference at the table would be nil as I would roleplayed both the same way and have done the same things for the same reason including hiring 2 crossbowmen to protect my 1 hp (in B/X) ass. In GURPS this would have been expressed as a lower and usual number of HPs probably 7 or 8. (lowered from the default set by strength)

The advantage of mechanics is that it is an effective way of communicating what the character can do. But mechanical detail is not a requirement to have those mechanics in the first place.

The real question is here is whether how would the referee handle this. You can weave baskets in GURPS 4e by buying Profession(Basket Weaver). In classic D&D like B/X the referee would have to make a ruling as to how to handle this when it comes up. For me, that means given time you will succeed at doing this. If you have to weave a basket under time pressure then it is a 1d20 roll+dex mod. If you roll a 15+ you succeed into making the basket in the allotted time. I picked basket weaving to illustrate the flexibility of the general idea.

I think people get too hung up on the rules. The point of a RPG in my view is to have interesting adventures while pretending to be a character in the setting. The implication of this you can do whatever a character can do within the setting. It is only limited by how the character is described (background, physical attributes, mental attributes, etc.). Mechanics help with this but are not required for this to work. Sticking to the letter of the rules is good for consistency but not when it comes to what character can do. That is governed by how the setting is described.

A common criticism, other than bringing up Rule Zero, is that it turns into a "Mother May I". My counterpoint is that situation is a referee problem. The referee did not do their job of communicating how things work in their campaign at a sufficient level of detail for the group. This is the real problem of using a lite system for a RPG campaign. If you opt for a lite system then the burden is on the referee to effectively communicate and coach their players as to what character can and can't do in the setting. There is no rulebook where the referee can say "Read Chapter 3 it will explain how X works".

The other consequence is that given time over multiple campaigns in the same setting a referee making fair and consistent rulings will end at the same point in terms of mechanical complexity even when starting off with a lite system. This is because once it is determined how things like basket weaving work, a fair referee will make the same ruling if the same circumstance happens again. The rulings pile up and by the end of it all, the referee will find they would have built up a detailed system developed slowly over time in small increments.

I also noticed that opposite sometimes happens with systems like GURPS. The referee will start out using most of it RAW, but then alter and tweak things often losing things considered too fussy or too complex. The result is a closely related system that is more in-line with the referee and his group preference in regards to mechanical complexity.

Wrapping it up
I believe the solution for classic D&D is to teach people how to use the tools that are there to handle things like basket tweaking, disarmings, knocking out a guard, etc. It would be hard to build a house if you didn't know how to use carpenter tools even if you had the plans and material on hand.

I took a small stab at it with this.

 

Endless Flight

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That’s one thing I appreciated about later editions of D&D and other RPGs like D6): they have skills (ranks or pips or whatever). One of the things I always used in earlier editions were NWP.
 

xanther

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Lack of Player Choices? I made this for a cleric with B/X which I and those who I played with considered pretty distinct from a run-of-a-mill classic D&D cleric.
Not to harsh on you, but besides choosing a species, class and how to arrange you stats what choice is their?

Seems like the classic distribution stat scores except INT was picked higher. None the less this Clerics saves and chance to hit and what they can do under the rules is limited to the cleric class as defined by the game. Forget immaterial things like basket weaving skill. What of stealth? climbing? Two areas with important rules around them. Areas where a cleric dedicated to say Bast might have skill. What of enhanced combat ability at the reduction of magical ability; say they are more a war priest.

The gap with D&D class is the buckets don't do the literature from which it derived all that well...or should say they are but one limited interpretation. Something as simple as the "Giants in the Earth" series or the listings in Supplement IV show this. There is simply no (non-convoluted and ad hoc) path to be Conan. That is his "thieving" abilities (really he can just climb and is stealthy) just don''t fit with the fighter or thief. Multiclassing certainly didn't fix this.

The "solution" it seems is to make sui generis exceptions as in "has the x ability as a x level thief" .."or fighter" "..or cleric" etc. Which mechanically is a skill based system with extra steps. Why not just define the bundle of skills for each base class, and then if one wants a class with stealth, climbing and pick from your bag of skills to make that bundle? More importantly, one does not need to even pre-define these classes if there is a unified xp progression and good design rules for making classes; with the classic classes simply as examples of what can be done. Instead, IMHO, D&D just doubled down on the sui generics nature of classes and pumped out class after class (and worse cascading/prestige classes or sub-classes) that rapidly exceeds the total number of skills in GURPS :smile:

The lack of choice in D&D is the designers made a few bundles (classes) they liked and choose the skills that went into the bundle for their setting or preference. A great place to start or get an intro to RPGS, but not great for other settings and a "design" that is hard to modify without invention.

Sure I can make OD&D or early D&D work for anything and on the fly alter the base classes, just because the game mechanics are so simple and know them inside and out, but that doesn't mean the game has choice, simply that I can house-rule it rather easily to provide choice...even if will be excommunicated later :smile:

My belief is simply that D&D mechanics as presented are poorly designed to permit choice in character creation. Sure, you can have any color car you want as long as it is black. Same as, sure you can have any cleric you want, as long as their material skills (ones the game has rules for), chance to hit, saves, etc. are this.

...

I think people get too hung up on the rules. The point of a RPG in my view is to have interesting adventures while pretending to be a character in the setting. The implication of this you can do whatever a character can do within the setting. It is only limited by how the character is described (background, physical attributes, mental attributes, etc.). Mechanics help with this but are not required for this to work. Sticking to the letter of the rules is good for consistency but not when it comes to what character can do. That is governed by how the setting is described.
...


Wrapping it up
I believe the solution for classic D&D is to teach people how to use the tools that are there to handle things like basket tweaking, disarmings, knocking out a guard, etc. It would be hard to build a house if you didn't know how to use carpenter tools even if you had the plans and material on hand.
People more than get hung up on the rules, especially in D&D it seems, I've been eviscerated and piled on for even suggesting an MU could use a sword at a -4 even.

I'm all for ignoring rules or making my own. Yet at some point the quantitative number of rules I need to ignore, tweak or make up (and thus track all these house rules so I am consistent) becomes so many that qualitatively the RAW get in the way of having interesting adventures. At that point I have effectively designed my own game.

As to the tools there are...the built in tools for the D&D I know for disarming and knocking out guards are in my view are convoluted and piss poor; nothing takes one out of immersion better than the AD&D unarmed combat rules :smile: I think that is just the issue, the built in tools just are not that great or work smoothly outside a very limited range of actions and choices.

How you describe running games based on setting, being rational and interesting adventures is how always do it and the games I stay in. Yet time and time again the tool kit D&D provided was never enough as written, and frankly got in the way more often than not if you wanted your own tool. Except for lethal combat and magic which had very good tools, basically run into range and hit...which is all you need for a fantasy miniatures war game...but not an RPG.

An example, stealth. How do you handle sneaking under the rules as written if one is not a thief? Where is the rule for that in classic D&D? I can certainly make a rule...but if wish to be fair to the player who choose a thief need to design it so not to be better than the thief; especially if want it to fit with the thief mechanics. Trust me, I have and everyone have known who has played OD&D and the ilk has...all were kludges if stuck with the % table.

Climbing is the same thing. Even if you consider the thief ability to be sheer surfaces beyond most (which to be honest was never a great rationale as I must have been a 15th level thief under D&D based on what I could climb at age 15) what about ropes? Do you just assume it is automatic? Fair enough, but what of those interesting adventure scenarios where sure I can automatically climb this rope if not weighed down and given enough time, but what if I need to rush as a matter of life and death, what if I am carrying a heavy load? What then? Where is the rule for that if I am not a thief?

As much as I love and have fond memories of classic D&D it is far from having all, or even the necessary minimum in my view, of pre-made tools out of the box one would need for interesting adventures along the lines of classic swords & sorcery literature. Its saving grace is it is so simple and rules few that one can house-rule it and even change fundamentally how things are done (use rolls against DEX etc. for thief abilities) and have it play the same (or better) than RAW.
 

robertsconley

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Not to harsh on you,
NP, and you ask a relevant question.

but besides choosing a species, class and how to arrange you stats what choice is their?
Defining the person your character is in the setting. For that, you need to talk to your referee. In my Majestic Wilderlands even before I wrote my Supplement VI book there was a bunch to decide after the presumably simplistic (compared to GURPS). For fighters there was deciding whether one is noble born, a merc type, a soldier type, a gladiator. For clerics it is the religion they were part of. For magic user it is whether they start out as a lone practitioner or part of a magical order. For thieves is was about the associates they grew up and what kind of thieves they were.

All of these were not expressed in mechanics as far as AD&D 1e went in the early 80s or in OD&D in the form of Swords & Wizardry in the mid 2000s. But these had a very real impact on the initial circumstances of the character and how the campaign unfolded. And I am not talking about a deep immersion in some far out fantasy culture like some of the niches of Glorantha or pretty much all of Tekumel. I generally applied this with a light but pervasive touch.

My counter-thesis to your point is that if you don't feel like you have enough choices in a campaign using B/X then that is a problem with the referee. That referee, whomever it was, opted by choice to make a setting where fighters are just hacking away, clerics are heal-bots, magic-users are BOOM! and done. Thieves handle things outside of combat and spellcasting (badly except for climbing). In contrast, without adding a single mechanic my Majestic Wilderlands campaigns using the same set of rule RAW have a bunch things that you have to decide on before the character is ready to play*. Choices that are just as consequential as picking the right feat in D&D 3.5 or picking the right advantage in GURPS.

*Rob's Note: And I account for those who just want to play a fighter who hacks away, cleric who is a heal-bot, magic-user that goes Boom! and is done, or a Thief that does things other than combat and spellcasting badly (except for climbing).



Seems like the classic distribution stat scores except INT was picked higher. None the less this Clerics saves and chance to hit and what they can do under the rules is limited to the cleric class as defined by the game. Forget immaterial things like basket weaving skill. What of stealth? climbing?
All skills are in the same boat as far as classic D&D is concerned. Although I picked basket-weaving the same consideration I outlined for that skill applies to stealth or climbing.

And for the most part classic D&D is silent on the use of skills. The tools you have to make a ruling on an attempt at stealth, climbing are ability scores, level, the to-hit score, and saves.

What about the Thief and Stealthing, Climbing?
Here what B/X RAW says on B10.
  • They are the only characters who can open locks and find traps without using magic to do so.
  • A thief's training includes learning how to pick pockets, climb steep surfaces, move silently, hide in shadows, open locks (with a set of lockpicks or burglar's tools), remove small traps (such as poisoned needles), and how to hear noises better than other humans. As a thief progresses in level, he or she becomes more proficient in these "thiefly" skills. A table for determining a thief's success in each category (depending on his or her level of experience) is given on page B8.
The first one is an example of a negative ruling on capability. It explicitly says that only thieves can open locks and find traps without magic. The second on is an example of a positive ruling on capability. It says that thieves can do the following things at a certain level to succeed and is silent on what other character can do.
1659545070573.png

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Again the text is are example of positive coments on capabilities and make no reference to what other character can or can't do. The text is mostly silent on what happens when a fighter, mu, or cleric attempt to sneak around or climb sheer surfaces. Maybe Moldavy intended only thieves can do these things. But he was careful enough to mention explicitly a rule on open lock and find traps.

As for stealth we have the surprise rule on B23
SURPRISE: After finding the number of monsters appearing and their distance from the characters, the DM should then determine whether or not each side has been surprised. It is possible for both parties to be surprised!

1659545473322.png


But here we start running into issues because this take on surprise is part of a very boardgame like procedure outlined on this page. This procedure read like something that better off in the Dungeon! board game than something that overally use in a RPG campaign. In my experience, my friends and I used this for the first couple of sessions because it was one of the few thing written in stone in a game that very different than the boardgames and wargames we played. But there came a point where after reading the rest of the book for the Nth time that with one of us referee we don't have to do everything in a cookie-cutter fashion. We could plan and plot and approach the rooms we encounter differently. Especially after getting what they were talking about in the example of play on B59 and the advice on DMing on B60.

So after that point, we used elements of the above to handle the novel ways players were coming up with to deal with adventuring. If a encounter happened randomly sure roll for surprise and encounter distance. Sure if the party rushed the room after listening at the door and finding out there are monster, roll for surprise for the monsters.

And ultimately some of us moved onto other system like Runequest in the early 80s or Hero System, Rolemaster, and GURPS later on. Systems that handled all of this stuff with mechanics that were spelled out. But what if for whatever reason, the referee or groups decides to stick with D&D? What then? Throw up you hands and say it can't be done? Of course not.

The trick as it turns out is something that Gygax forgot to write about when he wrote OD&D for the miniature wargamers of the early 70s. He assume correctly that he didn't need to explain certain things because the audience for his game knew about them already. Which was the fact if player wanted to do something that wasn't covered by the rules, you look to the scenario (if a wargame) or the setting (if it is Greyhawk or Blackmoor) to see if it made sense. If it does you make a ruling.

And if an older rule wasn't working out in light of the new ruling then you would change the older ruling to make it more consistent. In essence the wargamers of the time were used to fixing their games on the fly and were knowledgable about history and the settings they were using.

But OD&D expanded way beyond Gygax's intended audience to folks like sci-fi fandom who didn't share those assumption. D&D has been playing catch-up ever since. Moldavy/Cook's B/X rules were a waypoint along that catch-up process. And while it explained the existing mechanics better and added a few new useful ones. It still didn't explain what to do when a character wanted to do something that made sense but there no rules to cover it. Like Stealth and Climbing if you were not a thief.

So now what?
I think by this point you and other particpating in this and other threads know a little about classic D&D and read one or more of what avaliable. Based on my experience to fix what you are complaining in regards to stealth and climbing you need to do two things with raw.

Decide that the Thief abilities beyond open locks and stealth apply to extra-ordinary circumtance. Climbing a sheer cliff in cold hard rain with ice slicks covering many surfaces. Sneaking across a courtyard with guards in broad daylight with minimal cover. Situations out of the ordinary even for system that have stealth mechanics like Runequest or GURPS.

Decide which elements of a D&D character you are going to use to resolve stealth, climbing, and other skill check. You can roll a d20 equal to or under an attribute. You could do the same but subtract your level. You assume that the character will succeed at the skill but you have them make a save to avoid something bad happen like falling while climbing or avoid being spoted while stealth. Using save also takes in account levels elegantly. You could multiply a attribute by 5 and roll low on percentage dice. Subtracting -5% per each level.

But if you want character to explictily improve at being better at doing things other than combat and spell-casting (already accounted for) then you will need to make a new mechanics to handle that. Like non-weapon proficiencies of late AD&D 1e. Or my own ability system from the Majestic Fantasy RPG.
https://www.batintheattic.com/downloads/MW Majestic Fantasy Basic RPG Rev 10.pdf (yeah I would work this into my response)

And I submit by doing this you are actually playing D&D as intended. For all intents and purposes, Gygax either forgot about this or gave up on it after being spammed with letters, phone calls, and submissions. But after all the reading I done, and listening to various accounts, I am pretty certain this is how wargaming and along with it D&D was intended to be played by early 70s gamers.

This mythical original unpublished rule system everybody keeps hunting after diving into this stuff. But nobody likes it because it involves a lot of work in knowing your stuff and being on the ball during the game about when to make ruling and changes. So most keep hunting for the unicorn manuscript that will make everything right.
 

robertsconley

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Two areas with important rules around them. Areas where a cleric dedicated to say Bast might have skill. What of enhanced combat ability at the reduction of magical ability; say they are more a war priest.

At some point, a player or group will have to accept what classic D&D doesn't cover. You could ask the same question about The Fantasy Trip which explicitly doesn't have divine magic.

But if you want that level of detail for classic D&D then you will have to make a new mechanic. Which is the choice I made for my Majestic Fantasy RPG. I didn't jettison the Swords & Wizardry Cleric but did added a bunch of stuff that made a Cleric of Mitra different than a Cleric of Set different than a Cleric of Nephtys.

I will be glad to comp you a PDF copy of my Majestic Fantasy Rules and my Majestic Wilderlands supplement if you want to see how it works.
in the spirit of classic D&D, I added the minimum to make it happen.

The gap with D&D class is the buckets don't do the literature from which it derived all that well...or should say they are but one limited interpretation. Something as simple as the "Giants in the Earth" series or the listings in Supplement IV show this. There is simply no (non-convoluted and ad hoc) path to be Conan. That is his "thieving" abilities (really he can just climb and is stealthy) just don''t fit with the fighter or thief. Multiclassing certainly didn't fix this.
Because it was a mash-up from the moment Dave Arneson started up Blackmoor, and continued in Gygax's Greyhawk. There never was going to be a close fidelity to the original. Instead folks opted for "good enough".


Why not just define the bundle of skills for each base class, and then if one wants a class with stealth, climbing and pick from your bag of skills to make that bundle?
All characters could do things outside of spellcasting and combat given how I ran things. But players wanted to be better at certain things. So I made my ability system. Also jettisoned the thief class and made a series of Rogue classes (Burgular, Thug, Montebank, etc.) that focused on being better at things outside of combat and spellcasting.


More importantly, one does not need to even pre-define these classes if there is a unified xp progression and good design rules for making classes; with the classic classes simply as examples of what can be done. Instead, IMHO, D&D just doubled down on the sui generics nature of classes and pumped out class after class (and worse cascading/prestige classes or sub-classes) that rapidly exceeds the total number of skills in GURPS :smile:
My experience is that works out better for classic D&D that you start out with the original three (cleric, mu, fighter) and tailor things to the setting of the campaign rather than try to make a one size fits all system. The benefit of my approach is that it will reflect setting balance better and not game balance. For example in my Majestic Fantasy RPG from a mechanical analysis, playing a elf, a paladin, a myrmidon, or a claw of kalis are clearly far more optimal due to the number of abilities they have compared to other classes.

The main limits are a result of the setting being human dominated, that the three classes I mention on not free agents able to roam randomly about the setting. Stuff that doesn't show up in the mechanics but does get spelled out in my books. Unlike Gygax, I don't assume my reader will know what going on in head after I write something.

The lack of choice in D&D is the designers made a few bundles (classes) they liked and choose the skills that went into the bundle for their setting or preference. A great place to start or get an intro to RPGS, but not great for other settings and a "design" that is hard to modify without invention.
So while I have my criticisms of Gygax and later D&D authors. One thing they did right was to build D&D around the stuff they liked. As it turned out it proved to be timeless and evidenced by its continued popularity to this day. That even in the editions with the most customization in the system (like 3.5) most continued to use the traditional four (fighter, mu, cleric, thief).


Sure I can make OD&D or early D&D work for anything and on the fly alter the base classes, just because the game mechanics are so simple and know them inside and out, but that doesn't mean the game has choice, simply that I can house-rule it rather easily to provide choice...even if will be excommunicated later :smile:
When it comes to OD&D you are supposed house-rule it. It says so right in the rulebook on the last page of Book III before Gygax ends with Fight On!.



My belief is simply that D&D mechanics as presented are poorly designed to permit choice in character creation. Sure, you can have any color car you want as long as it is black. Same as, sure you can have any cleric you want, as long as their material skills (ones the game has rules for), chance to hit, saves, etc. are this.
Or you could ask those of us with detailed settings how we made it work even when we limited ourselves to RAW.

People more than get hung up on the rules, especially in D&D it seems, I've been eviscerated and piled on for even suggesting an MU could use a sword at a -4 even.
There are assholes in every decade including before the Blackmoor campaign was run. I for one don't design to placate the assholes. My recommendation is that you do you and don't look back.

Having said that if you want to share other things you did in a way that is "understandable" and useful for most folk in the hobby. Then mastering one of the editions of D&D is your ticket. While I may complain bitterly about the lack of a decent 3PP for GURPS, I didn't let that stop me from presenting the Majestic Wilderlands or the Majestic Fantasy Realms. And once I decided to use Swords & Wizardry as my foundation, I didn't sneer at those who wanted to stick with RAW despite the many additions I made to make the Majestic Fantasy RPG. Instead, I made sure that I only did the minimum, and if a player used my stuff and stuck with what Swords & Wizardry had that it remained 100% compatible.


I'm all for ignoring rules or making my own. Yet at some point the quantitative number of rules I need to ignore, tweak or make up (and thus track all these house rules so I am consistent) becomes so many that qualitatively the RAW get in the way of having interesting adventures. At that point I have effectively designed my own game.
I found that not to be true even after two decades of running the Majestic Wilderlands using GURPS. True that my MF Myrmidon doesn't have the mechanical naunces of the GURPS version. But it has what makes a Myrmidon a Myrmidon in the Majestic Wilderlands.

And to show how far down the rabbit hole my S&W/MW stuff can go.

And this was written off of the 2012 version of my rules.

As to the tools there are...the built in tools for the D&D I know for disarming and knocking out guards are in my view are convoluted and piss poor; nothing takes one out of immersion better than the AD&D unarmed combat rules :smile: I think that is just the issue, the built in tools just are not that great or work smoothly outside a very limited range of actions and choices.
Then I recommend starting with Swords & Wizardry Core it is the closest thing to an ur-D&D that is out there. Has the minimum elements that most people consider to be classic D&D. And has a handy rtf file that can be edited.
 

robertsconley

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How you describe running games based on setting, being rational and interesting adventures is how always do it and the games I stay in. Yet time and time again the tool kit D&D provided was never enough as written, and frankly got in the way more often than not if you wanted your own tool. Except for lethal combat and magic which had very good tools, basically run into range and hit...which is all you need for a fantasy miniatures war game...but not an RPG.
I will be glad to comp you a PDF copy of my Scourge of the Demon Wolf adventure. I think that will be an effective counterpoint.

As much as I love and have fond memories of classic D&D it is far from having all, or even the necessary minimum in my view, of pre-made tools out of the box one would need for interesting adventures along the lines of classic swords & sorcery literature. Its saving grace is it is so simple and rules few that one can house-rule it and even change fundamentally how things are done (use rolls against DEX etc. for thief abilities) and have it play the same (or better) than RAW.

I think you need to let go that a RPG campaign is defined by its system. And embrace that point of what we do is to run a campaign. What define what can and can't happen is the setting. That the system is just an aide that allows to happen in the time we have for a hobby. But the only hard and fast mechanics are these

The referee describes the setting
The player describes their character to the referee.
The referee describes the initial circumstances in which the character find themselves.
The player describes what they do as their character.
The referee describes the consequences
The referee describes the new circumstances
Repeat the preceding three steps until the campaign concludes.

Everything else is a detail to make this happen in a way that is fun within the time we have for a hobby.

The implication for this discussion is that if the system conflicts with how the setting is described then the system needs to be altered to account for the discrepancy. If this doesn't occur then the setting will morph into the one that is explicitly or implicitly described by the system (Lord Vreeg's Law). And in my opinion, this choice often produces a campaign that is not as fun as no author of an RPG system can account for all the nuances that make up your setting for your campaign. Even when we are talking about something like Savage Worlds, Fate, or GURPS.
 

robertsconley

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The character's background, history, personality, goals, etc. Lots of stuff that isn't quantifiable.
Agree 100% and the reason I didn't respond that tersely because it is like saying "you can make a ruling". Many folks don't get this without having it explained in detail and illustrated with examples. I realize I sound critical but the fact most folks are used to picking a rulebook to play a game and if you don't follow the rule you are cheating or not playing it "right". Even 50 years later many don't get that RPG are something very different and still novel as far as the game we play for leisure.
 

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But OD&D expanded way beyond Gygax's intended audience to folks like sci-fi fandom who didn't share those assumption. D&D has been playing catch-up ever since. Moldavy/Cook's B/X rules were a waypoint along that catch-up process. And while it explained the existing mechanics better and added a few new useful ones. It still didn't explain what to do when a character wanted to do something that made sense but there no rules to cover it. Like Stealth and Climbing if you were not a thief.

Moldvay's rules (p. B60) has pretty good sections on how to handle "That's not in the rules!" and "There's always a chance." Cook made the ability rolls mentioned in the latter section into an optional rule on p. X51. Nothing articulated with respect to thief capabilities versus those of other classes, but at least a starting point for such a discussion.
 

robertsconley

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Moldvay's rules (p. B60) has pretty good sections on how to handle "That's not in the rules!" and "There's always a chance." Cook made the ability rolls mentioned in the latter section into an optional rule on p. X51. Nothing articulated with respect to thief capabilities versus those of other classes, but at least a starting point for such a discussion.
Good catch I missed that
X60 Basic
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X51 Expert
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And to answer xanther xanther question on climbing. Cook adopts the interpretation that thief abilities are for especially difficult circumstances.
X51 Expert
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And finally Cook says also on X51
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I'm confused. I'm wasn't talking about the ability to do stunts or actions not covered by the rules. I'm talking about the fact that the majority of OSR games pay lots of attention to options for the GM, but the character choices are often bland and uninspiring. (eg "Cleric", "Dwarf").

This is obviously superficial stuff. If you're in a game then your human fighter can acquire all kinds of interesting facets based on things that happen in play, but it's not very inspiring on paper.

People can decide if that's even a flaw or not - but I'd note, as I said, that modern games that tend to draw some influence from the OSR, tend to pay more attention to inspiring players to want to play.

(I don't even think this is new. Leafing through 1e Warhammer is vastly more inspiring to me as a player than something like Old School Essentials)
 
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ffilz

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I'm confused. I'm wasn't talking about the ability to do stunts or actions not covered by the rules. I'm talking about the fact that the majority of OSR games pay lots of attention to options for the GM, but the character choices are often bland and uninspiring. (eg "Cleric", "Dwarf").

This is obviously superficial stuff. If you're in a game then your human fighter can acquire all kinds of interesting facets based on things that happen in play, but it's not very inspiring on paper.

People can decide if that's even a flaw or not - but I'd note, as I said, that modern games that tend to draw some influence from the OSR, tend to pay more attention to inspiring players to want to play.

(I don't even think this is new. Leafing through 1e Warhammer is vastly more inspiring to me as a player than something like Old School Essentials)
I get what both Robert and you are saying. BUT...

Every time I read a post from Robert, I am more and more inspired that you really don't need tons of baggage to make a fun game and have individual characters. And in truth I know this.

I get that adding some kind of "skill" system helps. And yea, in that sense, I am most enjoying running RuneQuest and Cold Iron which do allow for skills beyond classifying a character as Figher, Cleric, or Magic User (and maybe Thief). But I've also done that by expanding.

The Cold Iron rules I was handed had Fighters, Clerics, and Magic Users. Clerics could have their spells customized to their god. The skill list included weapon skills, unarmed combat, hand to hand combat (Cold Iron differentiates fighting while standing and wrestling together on the ground), and riding. Almost from the start I added ways to have other skills. There are lots of ways to do it. For my Cold Iron Samurai Adventures, I added characters having an "Expertise Level" that gives them more skill points that can be used for combat skills OR non-combat skills. There's a bit more to it than that, but it works. Since I started with players from Bushido campaigns, I said they could look to Bushido for a list of skills. But if a player asked for some other skill, I'd make it work (or tell them they didn't need a specific skill in that area).

For RuneQuest, I use the RQ1 skill list plus some additions (mostly in the realm of interpersonal skills - using the Oratory bonus as a "Communication" bonus), but I've also added some Manipulation and Knowledge skills. I added some more skills for my Thieves Guild campaign to cover all the skills available from the Thieves Guild game system. I've added previous experience sections as players wanted to play things beyond the options presented in the RQ1 previous experience section, most recently adding two sections for Balazarings (hunter and citadel townsman), drawing from the material in Griffon Mountain.

But reading Roberts posts, I would give consideration again to running some basic form of D&D (OD&D, BX/OSE, some other OSR set, or even AD&D 1e) but pick a setting that had enough definition that I COULD expand on character backgrounds in the way Robert has. Maybe by the time I'm ready to make that jump, the Majestic Wilderlands will be more concrete in published form and I'll use that (The Wilderlands of High Fantasy is really cool and nostalgic for me, but it just doesn't have enough detail of cultures and polities for my current taste).
 

robertsconley

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I'm talking about the fact that the majority of OSR games pay lots of attention to options for the GM, but the character choices are often bland and uninspiring. (eg "Cleric", "Dwarf").
I can't speak as to flaws in player choice for certain systems without specifics. In general, it has been my observation that
  • Many are either not aware of the possibilities that exist without having to write explicit mechanics.
  • Or that stuff without adding rules that somehow cheating. Running a classic D&D campaign the wrong way by focusing on having options without mechanics.
  • Or that it has to result in long boring badly written short stories posing as character backgrounds.
This goes for authors, referees, and players.


This is obviously superficial stuff. If you're in a game then your human fighter can acquire all kinds of interesting facets based on things that happen in play, but it's not very inspiring on paper.
You are assuming that classic D&D and related systems require all characters to start as a tabula rosa, a bland slate. What if you don't do that? What if a referee like myself encouraged players to make characters that have interesting and varied backgrounds? That it doesn't have to be elaborate just enough to give a sense of where the character is at the start of the campaign.

Also there is no requirement you have to start out a campaign at 1st level. All the reasons why skill-based systems allow varying starting points for characters apply to classic D&D as well.

Also, much of classic D&D is silent on exactly how various spells and abilities manifest. There are a lot of ways to make things interesting varying the exact description of how a turn undead attempt works.

None of this is new, it just in the wake of AD&D 1e and standardization it fell off of most folks radar. Or consider a dirty house rule.

Finally while you could do this and still keep things RAW. As I found out you can get a lot of mileage of simple tweaks to create a setting that is different. For example the simple expedience of allowing spells to be cast out of spellbooks but only as a 10 minute ritual at a cost in components allowed for different competing magical orders without having to touch various spells lists. Especially when you have a class that can only cast spells through rituals.

The nice thing about the present is that we have over forty years of experience with these mechanics. The problem in my opinion is about communicating the possibilities and the consequences of various options. As a result classic D&D can be and is as rich and varied any other system on the market.

People can decide if that's even a flaw or not - but I'd note, as I said, that modern games that tend to draw some influence from the OSR, tend to pay more attention to inspiring players to want to play.
Sorry to be critical but what measure of success are we talking about here? The OSR revived an out of print, unsupported line of systems and revitalized not only a hobby but an industry around. Then there is nice side effect that you mention of it inspiring others to make their own non D&D borrowing this and that and implementing with new mechanics.

And core of it continues to chug along and shows no sign of stopping. A third of my downloads and sales came within the last two years over the last 10 years.

(I don't even think this is new. Leafing through 1e Warhammer is vastly more inspiring to me as a player than something like Old School Essentials)
Yes but here the rub. How much work it is to hack 1e Warhammer compared to OSE? Supposed you don't want to run a grimdark setting with its mechanics? However doable it is, OSE is way easier. To clear, the point I am making isn't that you should find OSE appalling only how hobbyist react to this stuff. Why OSE was able to find success in spite of the criticisms you make. Because it is good enough for what people want to do as a hobby. And I guarantee there sizable percentage every year who grow disenchanted with classic D&D and seek out system with more details and more naunces in the mechanics.
 

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Skill systems really don't have anything to do with what I was talking about.
 

ffilz

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Skill systems really don't have anything to do with what I was talking about.
Then what is it you are talking about?

Robert has made it clear there's plenty of options to make a rich setting and campaign run with D&D rules.

Oh, I wish I had the time and players for two (or three) more Roll20 campaigns:

Cold Iron (classic fantasy, and optionally, I'd LOVE to ALSO get Cold Iron Samurai Adventures running live vs. play by post).

D&D/OSR something.

Cold Iron classic fantasy and D&D/OSR something need an inspired setting to run in... I'll find one if the option to run either of these comes up...
 

robertsconley

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Skill systems really don't have anything to do with what I was talking about.
What I got was you were talking what you could be as a character. This affects what you can do as a character. Hence all the discussion about how to handle characters doing things not described in the options or rules of classic D&D. Because if that can happen, then you can use those ideas as a toolkit to create interesting options that reflect how a setting or genre works.
 
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