Posts

Alternative D&D (or, toward a simpler, more inclusive definition of "OSR")

The best source for what "OSR" means in 2020 seems to be David Perry's post, " What We Talk About When We Talk About the OSR ," written in the last days of 2019. In that post, David describes the OSR in no less than 18 bullet points. In Jesse Schell's The Art of Game Design , which I never grow tired of referencing, there is a section where Schell attempts to define the term "game." After he ends up with an unwieldy list ― games have goals, conflicts, rules, can be won and lost, etc. ―he says: That's a lot, isn't it? Alan Kay, the computer researcher, once advised me: "If you've written a software subroutine that takes more than ten arguments, look again. You've probably missed a few." This was his way of saying that if you need a long list to convey what you mean, you should find a better way to regroup your ideas. And indeed, this list of ten things does not seem complete. It is likely that we have missed a few. I think

Falling out of love with the dedicated table

As far as I can tell, there are three structures for running a D&D-like game: Mini-Campaign . A small, temporary group runs through a single adventure over one or two sessions. Maybe six at most. Dedicated Table . A small, dedicated group explores a wide-open sandbox at a regular meeting time for a few months to a few years. Open Table . A large group of players explore either a megadungeon or a hexcrawl (“West Marches”), joining sessions as they are available. No one is expected to join every session. I have a few thoughts. Thought #1: On Levelling I would rather have three separate games for each of these structures than try to bend a single game to serve all three. OD&D was designed for the open table. I think character levelling is the key example. In a large, community game, it helps a lot to have a “score” that instantly communicates how long you’ve been playing, how long you’ve survived, and how powerful your character is. The same principle is at work in MMORPGs. What d

A Game to Serve the Setting

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Part I: A World Where Everyone Gets to be Conan In “ d&d is anti-medieval ,” Paul over at Blog of Holding argues that Original D&D from 1974 does not represent a medieval, European society on either a fundamental or a superficial level. Unlike a medieval or even a capitalist society, the bulk of the land is free and unclaimed. You can wander the wilderness killing monsters and looting tombs without attracting the concern of a nobility that might fear violent and wealthy peasants. Paul refers to the setting as both social-classless and stateless, but “classless” would properly describe a setting without wealth disparity. OD&D is merely stateless, an anarchist or libertarian society absent modern technology. Paul concludes that this unique social model is “an American fantasy of empowerment and upward mobility,” either a subconscious or deliberate attempt by Gary Gygax to give his fantasy a Wild West or “New World spin.” I’d like to propose a more concrete explanation. Conan

Squires Errant and the Boons Class System (Eclectic Bastion Jam Post-Mortem)

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On Thursday, I released the players’ rules for  Squires Errant , my new OSR hack, as an entry into the Eclectic Bastion Jam . (I sure hope RPG folks recognizes the phrase knight errant  or that title must read like complete nonsense.) The game came about as a combination of three inspirations, I would say: Electric Bastionland ’s starting debt Red Ink Adventures 2.0   by Dreaming Dragonslayer’s save and Special Attack mechanics “Supply drop” mechanics in the GLOG and Off-White Cube I knew I wanted to make an OSR hack in the  Into the Odd  family when I decided I had no need for ability checks (I discuss this somewhat in  this comment on Goblin Punch ) and that no game has ever needed more than three saving throws. In addition, starting debt had convinced me that character-leveling is better-designed for comparing the skills of dozens of players at an old-school open-table game than investing the modern, dedicated table in the setting; to make it fit my desired medieval theme, I inven

The OSR needs a new approach to classes and this is it (maybe???)

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There is no reason that players cannot be allowed to play as virtually anything , provided they begin relatively weak and work up to the top, i.e., a player wishing to be a Dragon would have to begin as let us say, a “young” one and progress upwards in the usual manner, steps being predetermined by the campaign referee. -Original Dungeons & Dragons , 1974, emphasis mine I have just had an exciting thought and I want to try to explain it without getting too in-my-head about editing it into a coherent essay that will convince everyone of my genius, so bear with me. In cooperative, multiplayer game design, it is common wisdom that differentiating roles and assigning them to different players is a good way to increase player engagement and sense of teamwork. Everyone has a role to play, no one feels simply along for the ride or that they have nothing to do. Everyone feels like they have a unique reason to be in the game. That’s the ideal, anyway. Character cards in Forbidden Island