Old School vs. Modern Gaming (Swords & Wizardry vs. Pathfinder)


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Dragonchess Player wrote:
"Old school" and "new school" have very little to do with the game system. Mechanics do not mandate playstyle.

They don't necessarily mandate it, but they can strongly suggest or imply a certain playstyle. And let's be honest, if a player came to this board to complain about a DM that had his action fail because the player didn't do much more than state a skill to use and roll a d20, the vast majority of replies would be of the "crucify him" variety. Because the d20 system puts way more of an emphasis on the character builds and mechanical bonuses than it does on creativity and thinking outside the box.

Raven Moon wrote:
New mechanics and much more matured approach to not only solving the problems but actually giving life to a personality while playing it.

Disagree. And strongly disagree with the rather antagonistic way in which you present that opinion.


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Ironically the "new school" or "modern" gaming style exemplified by Pathfinder is something of a relic of the last decade. A large number of RPGs released within the past few years have rather definitively leaned towards the rules-light side of the spectrum. (I'm sure there are exceptions, but overall the industry seems to be leaning that way.)


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Norman Osborne wrote:
Raven Moon wrote:
New mechanics and much more matured approach to not only solving the problems but actually giving life to a personality while playing it.
Disagree. And strongly disagree with the rather antagonistic way in which you present that opinion.

I should have made it a bit more clear. New mechanics is referring to just that, new mechanics as opposed to the older Gygaxian system of +/- integers. It is a streame lined version and it does help with the play compared to the old system. This COMBINED with a more mature approach to not only problem solving but personality development, quirks, background and history all building to give motivations. Not just a hack and slash attitude of the younger years. So yes this is my opinion and you dont have to agree with it. So if my clarification did not present it better than we can agree to disagree.


Irontruth wrote:

WoW didn't bring people to D&D.

At it's peak, I would estimate that the gross revenue of WoW subscriptions for a single month was about 5x greater than the yearly gross revenue of the entire PnP RPG industry at that time. Even now, without subscriptions, WoW is over a $1 billion gross revenue.

The RPG industry peaked (in terms of sales $) in 1989 when TSR sold 1 million copies of the PHB. These numbers dwarfed any sales for 3.0, 3.5 or 4e. I haven't heard estimates of 5e, but I would suspect that while up from 4e, still aren't anywhere near the peak of 1989 (I'd estimate closer to 100k per year).

Consider this, of the major "nerd" conventions, GenCon ranks 17th in size. NY Comic Con is roughly 3 times the size, with San Diego's version being well over double the size of GenCon.

Yearly sales of board games is roughly 10x the yearly sales of RPG's.

RPG's are a supremely niche market.

Having been to many conventions (DragonCon, ChataCon, MOC and a few other smaller cons) starting in the early 90s I have seen this grow and grow. The gaming industry was very much effected by digital gaming. While the transference from digital (WOW, Everquest, etc...) to pen and paper is not monumental in stature but they do affect each other both directly and indirectly. 4.0 D&D is a perfect example as it tried to simulate the same system in many ways. My point is the GAMING industry has grown as a whole because of it. The digital medium is a more "roll the dice" version rather than "playing a roll" but it is still gaming. Each version or medium do consider the other gamers. While I havent looked at the numbers I think gaming (pen and peper RPGs)was a much bigger industry around 2000 due to the 3.0 version of D&D being released. Yes I think it was even bigger then the last push in 89.


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Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber
Raven Moon wrote:
Norman Osborne wrote:
Raven Moon wrote:
New mechanics and much more matured approach to not only solving the problems but actually giving life to a personality while playing it.
Disagree. And strongly disagree with the rather antagonistic way in which you present that opinion.
I should have made it a bit more clear. New mechanics is referring to just that, new mechanics as opposed to the older Gygaxian system of +/- integers. It is a streame lined version and it does help with the play compared to the old system. This COMBINED with a more mature approach to not only problem solving but personality development, quirks, background and history all building to give motivations. Not just a hack and slash attitude of the younger years. So yes this is my opinion and you dont have to agree with it. So if my clarification did not present it better than we can agree to disagree.

Perhaps you'd be better off saying that the way you played older games was immature or "youthfully ignorant", rather than suggesting that it's the way of things.


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Steve Geddes wrote:
Raven Moon wrote:
Norman Osborne wrote:
Raven Moon wrote:
New mechanics and much more matured approach to not only solving the problems but actually giving life to a personality while playing it.
Disagree. And strongly disagree with the rather antagonistic way in which you present that opinion.
I should have made it a bit more clear. New mechanics is referring to just that, new mechanics as opposed to the older Gygaxian system of +/- integers. It is a streame lined version and it does help with the play compared to the old system. This COMBINED with a more mature approach to not only problem solving but personality development, quirks, background and history all building to give motivations. Not just a hack and slash attitude of the younger years. So yes this is my opinion and you dont have to agree with it. So if my clarification did not present it better than we can agree to disagree.
Perhaps you'd be better off saying that the way you played older games was immature or "youthfully ignorant", rather than suggesting that it's the way of things.

Actually as I see it the whole industry has grown up. Stories and modules have become more sophisticated in not only story but in giving a good hook for the players. While I loved White Plume Mountain it was a bit of a hack and slash dungeon crawl. It has its place, however we have new things like Jade Regent and King Maker that have vastly more complex stories and motivations not to mention a much more developed world. History, side stories and depth give a "living" world around the game a much more mature aspect. So yes I do see the entire gaming industry having gained a littler more maturity in its approach and not just my own.

This is personal observations I have made and no one has to take them as fact nor agree with them. I have simply listed examples of how and why I see things as old school and new school. On the other hand I could list a few common denominators that link old and new school stating they are the same in the most prime way. But its easier to just say ... gaming.


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Irontruth wrote:


An M1 Abrams tank could be used for my daily commute (they get about 0.6 mpg). That doesn't mean it's the best choice.

In the event of traffic jams it might just be perfect... ahem. Just thinking of my last trip down to LA :)


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Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber
Raven Moon wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:
Raven Moon wrote:
Norman Osborne wrote:
Raven Moon wrote:
New mechanics and much more matured approach to not only solving the problems but actually giving life to a personality while playing it.
Disagree. And strongly disagree with the rather antagonistic way in which you present that opinion.
I should have made it a bit more clear. New mechanics is referring to just that, new mechanics as opposed to the older Gygaxian system of +/- integers. It is a streame lined version and it does help with the play compared to the old system. This COMBINED with a more mature approach to not only problem solving but personality development, quirks, background and history all building to give motivations. Not just a hack and slash attitude of the younger years. So yes this is my opinion and you dont have to agree with it. So if my clarification did not present it better than we can agree to disagree.
Perhaps you'd be better off saying that the way you played older games was immature or "youthfully ignorant", rather than suggesting that it's the way of things.

Actually as I see it the whole industry has grown up. Stories and modules have become more sophisticated in not only story but in giving a good hook for the players. While I loved White Plume Mountain it was a bit of a hack and slash dungeon crawl. It has its place, however we have new things like Jade Regent and King Maker that have vastly more complex stories and motivations not to mention a much more developed world. History, side stories and depth give a "living" world around the game a much more mature aspect. So yes I do see the entire gaming industry having gained a littler more maturity in its approach and not just my own.

This is personal observations I have made and no one has to take them as fact nor agree with them. I have simply listed examples of how and why I see things as old school and new school. On the other hand I could list a few common denominators that link...

I can see the differences, I just think you might get less people bothered if you use less loaded terms than "immature" and "ignorant" to identify them.


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One thing about old school gaming is that it was all barely coherent additions to a simple core system, and all the while it gave suggestions to principles of doing things. You had a set of stats, and these shaped your combat abilities, but mostly there were few rules for things outside of combat. The basic stats were often disconnected from most other abilities. A good example is the Strength stat in AD&D. It gave you bonuses to hit and damage, it gave you carrying capacity. But it also gave you a Bend bars/lift gates percentage. It was entirely possible to use a Strength ability roll on a d20 to resolve issues, but this was not usually a good fit. The campaign guide for 2nd edition suggested using 1d4+X, since strength results shouldn't vary too much. So, three different ways to check for strength, with different chances of success, and little actual guidance to which should be used. Instead, the adventures usually told you which roll should be used. As a result, players could never be very certain how any strength related check should work, only that a higher strength was better.


Steve Geddes wrote:


I can understand what you mean as most folk think immature and ignorant are always a derogatory term. In this case it expresses less sophisticated story and development in the content of the product of the early days. And ignorant expresses just that, ignorance or lack of knowledge about a particular thing. Things I see the industry could have been ignorant of in the early days are the development of a background for the stories. Or they could have been aware of them but did not have the money or support to pull it off as an industry. In "modern" terms they have matured (grown wiser and learned) loosing the ignorance of the past (not knowing what they know now) to some basic building blocks we may take for granted in the "new school" of gaming. A "world" Like the early disorganized Grayhawk of the 70s and early 80s. To more developed worlds like Forgotten Realms, Dragon Lance (Krynn), or even the early attempts at adapting novels like those from H.P. Lovecraft, Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard and many others. It took some time to develop unique worlds and money to develop existing worlds from the novels. Add to this a smother playing mechanics guided by lessons of the past (on the fly arbitration at the table due to lack of rules) and the smother system made room for added rules. All of this gives us growth and some of it I liked and some of it I did not. But with the growth we have distinct versions of the same thing.


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Raven Moon wrote:
...on the fly arbitration at the table due to lack of rules...

In my view, this is the distinguishing feature of the "two schools" (I think there's a plethora of schools really, but if one wants to reduce it to a linear scale, I think "expected level of DM fiat" is the proxy that fits best for what I mean by the two).

I used to think it was a bad thing, but my preferences now are for much, much less codification. Consistency used to rank right up there as important, now I really don't care if (a la Sissyl's point) one door requres me to roll less than my strength on a d20 and the next means I need to roll 1-4 on a d6.

For some reason, I've gradually developed into the mindset that the more science there is, the more obvious it becomes to me that I'm playing a very poor simulation of reality. Discussions over which rule system are more "realistic" or have more "verisimilitude" seem to me like arguing whether we should play a terrible simulation or an extremely poor one.


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Raven Moon wrote:
I can understand what you mean as most folk think immature and ignorant are always a derogatory term. In this case it expresses less sophisticated story and development in the content of the product of the early days. And ignorant expresses just that, ignorance or lack of knowledge about a particular thing. Things I see the industry could have been ignorant of in the early days are the development of a background for the stories. Or they could have been aware of them but did not have the money or support to pull it off as an industry. In "modern" terms they have matured (grown wiser and learned) loosing the ignorance of the past (not knowing what they know now) to some basic building blocks we may take for granted in the "new school" of gaming. A "world" Like the early disorganized Grayhawk of the 70s and early 80s. To more developed worlds like Forgotten Realms, Dragon Lance (Krynn), or even the early attempts at adapting novels like those from H.P. Lovecraft, Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard and many others. It took some time to develop unique worlds and money to develop existing worlds from the novels. Add to this a smother playing mechanics guided by lessons of the past (on the fly arbitration at the table due to lack of rules) and the smother system made room for added rules. All of this gives us growth and some of it I liked and some of it I did not. But with the growth we have distinct versions of the same thing.

To the extent that's true, I'd say most of that development was done by the early 90s at the latest. Games like Call of Cthulhu, Star Wars, Vampire & Amber were doing all of this, often to a greater degree than "new school" D&D did.


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Steve Geddes wrote:
Raven Moon wrote:
...on the fly arbitration at the table due to lack of rules...

In my view, this is the distinguishing feature of the "two schools" (I think there's a plethora of schools really, but if one wants to reduce it to a linear scale, I think "expected level of DM fiat" is the proxy that fits best for what I mean by the two).

I used to think it was a bad thing, but my preferences now are for much, much less codification. Consistency used to rank right up there as important, now I really don't care if (a la Sissyl's point) one door requres me to roll less than my strength on a d20 and the next means I need to roll 1-4 on a d6.

For some reason, I've gradually developed into the mindset that the more science there is, the more obvious it becomes to me that I'm playing a very poor simulation of reality. Discussions over which rule system are more "realistic" or have more "verisimilitude" seem to me like arguing whether we should play a terrible simulation or an extremely poor one.

I'm opposed to verisimilitude in rules. Just to put that out there.

Rather, I want consistency in how the rules work so that my interaction with the game is predictable. I'm not talking about outcomes being predictable, but I want the flow of mechanics to feel smooth and not require that much though. The more consistent the rules are, the easier they are to interact with consistently and start to take a back seat to the actual play that is happening.

I haven't done the math, so please, no one correct me, just making an example. But with Powered by the Apocalypse games, there's roughly split 30/40/30 between failure/partial success/success. Any time, I as a player push the world in a way that requires a roll, I know I'm going to roll and those are my rough odds. I know that that partial success category carries with it various conditions and drawbacks that I'm going to have to deal with afterwards. It's simple, comprehensive and covers pretty much everything.

When I pick up a new PbtA game (it's a base system that was released with a Creative Commons license) as a GM or player, I basically already know the core of how the game works. I just have to read to learn how this game uses those rules to express something different. I also know, that because of how the game is structured, it's not a game that rides on rails well. If you try to put it on rails, it will almost immediately try to jump them mechanically. It's better to just fly by the seat of your pants and let the players do crazy things that take you new places.

All of this is highly consistent and repeated across the dozen or so different published games I've played using this system. From being a professional wrestler from Detroit, to a baby dragon in a MLP-esque world, to an elven wizard in a D&D style setting. The abilities were different on the sheet, but when I had to roll for something, I always knew exactly what dice to pick up and what my possible results were.


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As a tangent to that, "simulation of reality" usually isn't a major goal. Not just in the obvious "it's fantasy not reality" sense.
We're simulating genre fiction, not reality.


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Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber
thejeff wrote:

As a tangent to that, "simulation of reality" usually isn't a major goal. Not just in the obvious "it's fantasy not reality" sense.

We're simulating genre fiction, not reality.

I don't know about designer goals, but "being realistic" is often put forth by customers as a desirable trait in an RPG (which is synonymous isn't it?)


Steve Geddes wrote:
thejeff wrote:

As a tangent to that, "simulation of reality" usually isn't a major goal. Not just in the obvious "it's fantasy not reality" sense.

We're simulating genre fiction, not reality.
I don't know about designer goals, but "being realistic" is often put forth by customers as a desirable trait in an RPG (which is synonymous isn't it?)

I could be wrong, but I strongly suspect that's a case of customers not knowing what they want. Or they mean something different. Realistically, in a fantasy adventure setting like D&D, you die. Or you make sure to avoid anything remotely challenging.

Action adventure genre isn't realistic, for exactly that reason. However good the physics engine is or how accurately the weapons are described.

Grand Lodge

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thejeff wrote:
Action adventure genre isn't realistic, for exactly that reason. However good the physics engine is or how accurately the weapons are described.

But that's where verisimilitude comes into play...

Superman in the real world, cannot exist, but within the DC universe, he can because the rules of his universe allow for him to exist. At the same time, his universe is still familiar to us in the real world because despite the fact that superman is "faster than s speeding bullet" and "able to leap tall buildings in a single bound" the world around him works the same as our own.

And while I can't speak for other gamers, that is what I mean when I speak of "realism" in my D&D games; because despite the fact that dragons are flying around and wizards are lobbing fireballs, the world around them still acts and reacts in predicable ways.


Digitalelf wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Action adventure genre isn't realistic, for exactly that reason. However good the physics engine is or how accurately the weapons are described.

But that's where verisimilitude comes into play...

Superman in the real world, cannot exist, but within the DC universe, he can because the rules of his universe allow for him to exist. At the same time, his universe is still familiar to us in the real world because despite the fact that superman is "faster than s speeding bullet" and "able to leap tall buildings in a single bound" the world around him works the same as our own.

And while I can't speak for other gamers, that is what I mean when I speak of "realism" in my D&D games; because despite the fact that dragons are flying around and wizards are lobbing fireballs, the world around them still acts and reacts in predicable ways.

And those predictable ways involve things like "Superman always saving the day" and "Our heroes facing appropriate challenges and not being slaughtered in unpredictable ambushes like the NPCs."

You know, action adventure tropes. Not changes in the laws of physics to allow magic. Or Superman.

Edit: I did start this talking about simulating genre fiction. Superman comic books aren't what would really happen if the physics of the universe worked to allow him and all the other heroes and villains. Which is good because I enjoy comic book tropes.


Digitalelf wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Action adventure genre isn't realistic, for exactly that reason. However good the physics engine is or how accurately the weapons are described.

But that's where verisimilitude comes into play...

Superman in the real world, cannot exist, but within the DC universe, he can because the rules of his universe allow for him to exist. At the same time, his universe is still familiar to us in the real world because despite the fact that superman is "faster than s speeding bullet" and "able to leap tall buildings in a single bound" the world around him works the same as our own.

And while I can't speak for other gamers, that is what I mean when I speak of "realism" in my D&D games; because despite the fact that dragons are flying around and wizards are lobbing fireballs, the world around them still acts and reacts in predicable ways.

Verisimilitude is a trap. What qualifies for you might not qualify for me, and vice versa. It's a useless thing to debate, it's like you and me arguing over which color we like better.

Me: I like blue better.
You: Blue sucks, I like red better.

It's a pointless conversation.

So, unless you want to argue that a game is objectively realistic (which none of them are)...

Grand Lodge

thejeff wrote:
And those predictable ways involve things like "Superman always saving the day" and "Our heroes facing appropriate challenges and not being slaughtered in unpredictable ambushes like the NPCs."

My game worlds are not "level appropriate". The PCs can find themselves in over their heads if the just blunder into locals (e.g. a "dungeon") without doing a little research on it first to see what (or whom) it might contain.

Shadow Lodge

Digitalelf wrote:
My game worlds are not "level appropriate".

Which isn't realistic. Which was the point.


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Irontruth wrote:

...

Verisimilitude is a trap. What qualifies for you might not qualify for me, and vice versa. It's a useless thing to debate, it's like you and me arguing over which color we like better.

Me: I like blue better.
You: Blue sucks, I like red better.

It's a pointless conversation.

So, unless you want to argue that a game is objectively realistic (which none of them are)...

Tasty food is a trap. What What qualifies for you might not qualify for me, and vice versa. It's a useless thing to debate.

Me: I like meat
You: Meat sucks, I like fish

It's a pointless conversation, so we should all eat peanut butter and corn and roughly all the food joints should shut down because peanut butter and corn is cheaper (and probably healthier than fast food, frankly).

...

Am I understanding your logic correctly? Individuals may differ in opinion on something, so worrying about that thing is totally pointless?

Yeah, no. That's stupid.

Grand Lodge

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Irontruth wrote:
Verisimilitude is a trap.

All verisimilitude is, is the internal consistency within a given fiction. So of course one must first buy into that particular fiction in the first place, but not buying into the fiction does not mean it's automatically an argument over one preference or the other.

To use DC's universe as an example once again, one might prefer Batman over Superman (and thus argue the merits of one over the other), but both heroes exist within the same universe and both heroes are held to the same "laws" within that fictitious universe.


Digitalelf wrote:
thejeff wrote:
And those predictable ways involve things like "Superman always saving the day" and "Our heroes facing appropriate challenges and not being slaughtered in unpredictable ambushes like the NPCs."
My game worlds are not "level appropriate". The PCs can find themselves in over their heads if the just blunder into locals (e.g. a "dungeon") without doing a little research on it first to see what (or whom) it might contain.

Yeah, yeah, I get it.

Sandbox GMs are always so proud of how different they are. Then they carefully flag their worlds with warnings and signs of where to go to find enemies that are challenging enough to be entertaining, but not instant TPKs. Never have things with strong motivations and time pressure that would kill them. Every menace can be beaten or researched and avoided. You don't do anything to make sure there are interesting things for PCs to do that won't kill them on sight?

Does this apply to all the NPCs, good or bad, in your worlds? Any victims are so purely by their own errors?

That sure as hell isn't anything like the real world, though I suppose it could be internally consistent.

Grand Lodge

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thejeff wrote:
Sandbox GMs are always so proud of how different they are.

I'm not saying I'm any different. And I don't leave "flags and warning signs".

If the PCs for example ask if there are any ruins nearby, I'll have the locals say "yeah, there's a castle up yonder, but nobody goes near the place, it's haunted!". I leave any investigation about said castle up to the players; so if they just go off to it without first finding out what is supposedly haunting the place, I am not going to all of a sudden change what's haunting it because of their lack of forethought. If the castle's inhabitants (which I've already determined) are too powerful for them, so be it; they'll learn the hard way.

By that same token, if the PCs, in their wanderings, stumble upon a ruin and I know that the inhabitants are too powerful for them, if they decide to enter it, I'll let them... They either run from the place screaming with their tails tucked firmly betwixt their legs, or they die.

thejeff wrote:
You don't do anything to make sure there are interesting things for PCs to do that won't kill them on sight?

I have plenty of other distractions within my campaigns other than combat to interest the PCs... Things like mysteries to be solved, political intrigues and the likes.


Snowblind wrote:
Irontruth wrote:

...

Verisimilitude is a trap. What qualifies for you might not qualify for me, and vice versa. It's a useless thing to debate, it's like you and me arguing over which color we like better.

Me: I like blue better.
You: Blue sucks, I like red better.

It's a pointless conversation.

So, unless you want to argue that a game is objectively realistic (which none of them are)...

Tasty food is a trap. What What qualifies for you might not qualify for me, and vice versa. It's a useless thing to debate.

Me: I like meat
You: Meat sucks, I like fish

It's a pointless conversation, so we should all eat peanut butter and corn and roughly all the food joints should shut down because peanut butter and corn is cheaper (and probably healthier than fast food, frankly).

...

Am I understanding your logic correctly? Individuals may differ in opinion on something, so worrying about that thing is totally pointless?

Yeah, no. That's stupid.

You're close, but not quite.

Arguing verisimilitude is like trying to prove you like fish, therefore that matters more than how much I like meat. Since you like fish>meat, therefore I shouldn't make pulled pork this weekend... even though you aren't coming to my house for dinner.

That is what arguing verisimilitude is like.


Digitalelf wrote:
Irontruth wrote:
Verisimilitude is a trap.

All verisimilitude is, is the internal consistency within a given fiction. So of course one must first buy into that particular fiction in the first place, but not buying into the fiction does not mean it's automatically an argument over one preference or the other.

To use DC's universe as an example once again, one might prefer Batman over Superman (and thus argue the merits of one over the other), but both heroes exist within the same universe and both heroes are held to the same "laws" within that fictitious universe.

Verisimilitude doesn't mean consistency. Verisimilitude means appearance of realism.

Don't confuse the two concepts or invent new definitions of words please. Superman has no quality of verisimilitude because he is not realistic, plausible or possible. He violates pretty much every known aspect of physics. Regardless of how internally consistent he is within the fiction, he is not realistic, therefore has no verisimilitude.

If you look up further on the page, you'll note that I'm COMPLETELY IN FAVOR of internal consistency in mechanics. In fact I consider it a major priority of games to be consistent in their application and usage of mechanics.

Grand Lodge

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Irontruth wrote:
Verisimilitude doesn't mean consistency. Verisimilitude means appearance of realism.

It's more than that...

It's a Literary Device that allows us to suspend our disbelief in something that is other-wise far-fetched.

In Superman, the appearance of realism, is not Superman himself (obviously), but the world around him. The seemingly normal world surrounding Superman gives us a realistic context in which to identify with, and is thus the sole reason we can read about him and willingly suspend our disbelief.

That is what I mean by internal consistency, a consistency not within the rules or game mechanics, but a consistency (or realism if you prefer) within the context of the game's setting.

For example, in a world like The Forgotten Realms or World of Greyhawk, the realism is in the mundane; the flora, the fauna, the beautiful vistas... All of the little things that reflect our real world.

While realism can be found in the harsh deserts that make up a world like Dark Sun, the realism however, is much more apparent within the people that populate that world.

Despite the inhospitable world around them, the people of Dark Sun act and react in familiar ways to us. They act, well... Like real people; they act as we would expect real people to act, and that allows for a willing suspension of disbelief.


And none of that has to do with how game rules model the physics of swinging a sword. You're jumping to a COMPLETELY different topic.


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Irontruth wrote:
And none of that has to do with how game rules model the physics of swinging a sword. You're jumping to a COMPLETELY different topic.

Which, by the way, I jumped to long ago, near the beginning of this derail. Talking about genre fiction, which I think Digitalelf was following up, if I didn't lose track of the conversation.

Genre tropes and human behavior are definitely part of that conversation.

Still I suspect that even realistically modelling the physics of swinging a sword isn't really important to most. We'd like to fight giants, not get instantly squashed to pulp.


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Literary verisimilitude isn't about internal consistency. It's about a believable truth. It can relate to the fantastic, but typically the fantastic (when it has verisimilitude) is symbolic of elements of the real world.

For Superman to have verisimilitude, he would have to be acting as a metaphor that the good and the righteous are made strong by their morals and for people to actually believe that. The metaphor could be different, I'm just using that as an example. It has nothing to do with his powers and abilities, it has to do with how he reflects the real world and serves as a literary device to tell a story that the reader can relate to.

You can see a similar metaphor with the Luke Cage character. By embracing the history of African-Americans as strong individuals and standing up for what he believes in, he gains the power to do good and make his world a better place. By refusing to sit idly by, he becomes a powerful agent of change. That's verisimilitude, as long as the audience buys into that concept.

In A Midsummer Night's Dream the love potion has verisimilitude, not because it's internally consistent with the fictions world, but because the audience can relate to the powerful emotion of love and how when it arises suddenly it completely disrupts our life in an almost supernatural way. The love potion is erratic, unreasonable, chaotic, and incredibly powerful. The audience knows that love can turn our world upside down, so we accept the love potion as true.


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P.H. Dungeon wrote:
So where does 5e D&D fit on that spectrum?

Some fans of it say old school.

Most of the others may say New School.

Some say Old school because it's not as defined as 4e (but probably more so than 3e).

Others will say New school because it has a chasis off of 4e (Bounded accuracy is a critical feature like 4e, skills are handled similarly to 4e, combat is handled similarly to 4e without the powers added in). In many ways it is 4e WITHOUT the powers (at will/encounter/daily/etc.).

(and in many ways 4e was a modified D20 systems WITH powers tossed in, which is why without powers it is a LOT like 3e in many ways).

It really depends on what and how you view 5e and Old School.

Personally, I'd label 5e as absolutely New School.

I'd label something like Amber as Old School, and other things like Warhammer 1e and 2e as Old School.

ICE/Rolemaster probably could qualify as old school, but many would consider 3e and 3.5 (and I suppose that includes Pathfinder too) as a Rolemaster lite type idea (I've heard people refer to it as that...probably due to Cook's involvement) and hence may consider Rolemaster New school despite it being very old school.

Is that confusing?

I find it is at times.


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On what is old School, I'd probably say Old School differs from new School NOT due to anything with rules lite vs. rules heavy or anything similar to that at all. That leads down a very misleading path.

New School differs from Old school in that it tried to define balance in a very different way.

Old School had things where balance may be that demi-humans got benefits such as bonuses, powers and abilities as well as multiclassing at creation...but were limited in how much power they could attain.

Spellcasters may be literally able to die from a cat at creation, but at high level could wipe the world away with a word.

It was accepted that classes themselves were not balanced specifically against each other. That different Player Characters would not be balanced against each other. However, this did not MATTER because it was a team game and everyone was on the same team.

If one wanted to play up to these strengths and weaknesses, it was up to the DM to take that into account.

New School takes the approach that the classes and characters themselves need to be balanced in some way. Hence, when they aren't you get dynamics of people calling a class broken, or creating a tier system.

New School has different ways to do this, from giving everyone the same Combat bonuses in essence (4e and 5e) to trying to make sure they all deal similar amounts of damage, or can only have so many limitations on their statistics.

It tries to have it so that the game handles the differences between characters and not the DM.

THAT's the big difference in approach that I see between old school and new school approaches.

It is also one way which I see a difference between old school and new school DMing. In Old school, because of the accepted and inherent differences between characters and ability at various stages, the DM makes the call in many various areas and arenas. In New School, the DM relies more on the game system itself to make the rulings and judgements.

PS: With that in mind, I'd actually call how 3e was designed as being very old school in all actuality. I think Cook and others designed 3e very much with 2e and AD&D in mind. I'd say 3.5 and 4e on the otherhand is where we see the New School mindset start to take completely over.


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Irontruth wrote:

WoW didn't bring people to D&D.

At it's peak, I would estimate that the gross revenue of WoW subscriptions for a single month was about 5x greater than the yearly gross revenue of the entire PnP RPG industry at that time. Even now, without subscriptions, WoW is over a $1 billion gross revenue.

The RPG industry peaked (in terms of sales $) in 1989 when TSR sold 1 million copies of the PHB. These numbers dwarfed any sales for 3.0, 3.5 or 4e. I haven't heard estimates of 5e, but I would suspect that while up from 4e, still aren't anywhere near the peak of 1989 (I'd estimate closer to 100k per year).

Consider this, of the major "nerd" conventions, GenCon ranks 17th in size. NY Comic Con is roughly 3 times the size, with San Diego's version being well over double the size of GenCon.

Yearly sales of board games is roughly 10x the yearly sales of RPG's.

RPG's are a supremely niche market.

In the late 80s to early 90s RPGs was around a 150 Million to 200 million dollar market (vastly different than today).

TSR had an income of almost 100 million in 1991 and 1992 (that's gross, not net I believe).

It came crashing quickly down after that...and I mean QUICKLY. By the late 90s and early 2000s it was FAR less than that. If it hadn't been for WotC it is possible that RPGs as we know it may not exist today.

There probably would still be an indie industry...but nothing like where we see it now...even if it's smaller than it was even a decade and a half ago.

Another thing on the old School/New School thing...I think of is that on my personal bias, I think if I can DM something in and old School style I'm more liklely to play it (I have an easy time doing that with Pathfinder, believe it or not) but if I have a harder time with it (5e, despite what some may say), I tend to not like the game system. However, that really doesn't make the system old or new school.


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In keeping with my usual "old vs new is too reductive", I suspect that 5E is actually a new thing of its own, not new or old school.

Of course, I'd also argue that, despite copying mechanics, the aesthetics of the old school revival movement aren't really the same as what the actual old school was about. The perspective is too different.

"Rulings not rules" maybe how we see them now, looking back from modern games, but it wasn't the goal back then. They were trying for complete hard and fast rulesets, but they just had gaping holes in them, since they were being built up out of nothing.

5E may be looking to the OSR for inspiration, but it's far from the wargame that AD&D was so close to.


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Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber
thejeff wrote:

In keeping with my usual "old vs new is too reductive", I suspect that 5E is actually a new thing of its own, not new or old school.

Of course, I'd also argue that, despite copying mechanics, the aesthetics of the old school revival movement aren't really the same as what the actual old school was about. The perspective is too different.

"Rulings not rules" maybe how we see them now, looking back from modern games, but it wasn't the goal back then. They were trying for complete hard and fast rulesets, but they just had gaping holes in them, since they were being built up out of nothing.

5E may be looking to the OSR for inspiration, but it's far from the wargame that AD&D was so close to.

I agree with that - I think it's a 'new school' attempt to woo the 'old school' crowd.

Whilst I agree that "Rulings not rules" wasn't the goal of the OD&D designers, I don't think that's necessarily the point of people who now prefer oldschool games. Granted that might just be projection.

For me, at least, I like that approach because I prefer the speed and lack of mental effort as a player that comes with heavy DM fiat and don't particularly care about consistency in task resolution methodology session-to-session. Nonetheless, I take your point that they were trying to be complete, I think they just didn't really know what they needed to do yet or what things deserved prioritising. (Given how much people actually care about the issues - they put a rather insane amount of effort into encumbrance compared with the rather loose approach to initiative, for example).


GreyWolfLord wrote:
Irontruth wrote:

WoW didn't bring people to D&D.

At it's peak, I would estimate that the gross revenue of WoW subscriptions for a single month was about 5x greater than the yearly gross revenue of the entire PnP RPG industry at that time. Even now, without subscriptions, WoW is over a $1 billion gross revenue.

The RPG industry peaked (in terms of sales $) in 1989 when TSR sold 1 million copies of the PHB. These numbers dwarfed any sales for 3.0, 3.5 or 4e. I haven't heard estimates of 5e, but I would suspect that while up from 4e, still aren't anywhere near the peak of 1989 (I'd estimate closer to 100k per year).

Consider this, of the major "nerd" conventions, GenCon ranks 17th in size. NY Comic Con is roughly 3 times the size, with San Diego's version being well over double the size of GenCon.

Yearly sales of board games is roughly 10x the yearly sales of RPG's.

RPG's are a supremely niche market.

In the late 80s to early 90s RPGs was around a 150 Million to 200 million dollar market (vastly different than today).

TSR had an income of almost 100 million in 1991 and 1992 (that's gross, not net I believe).

It came crashing quickly down after that...and I mean QUICKLY. By the late 90s and early 2000s it was FAR less than that. If it hadn't been for WotC it is possible that RPGs as we know it may not exist today.

There probably would still be an indie industry...but nothing like where we see it now...even if it's smaller than it was even a decade and a half ago.

Another thing on the old School/New School thing...I think of is that on my personal bias, I think if I can DM something in and old School style I'm more liklely to play it (I have an easy time doing that with Pathfinder, believe it or not) but if I have a harder time with it (5e, despite what some may say), I tend to not like the game system. However, that really doesn't make the system old or new school.

The math doesn't add up for TSR to have sold $100 million in a single year. Their best product ever was the 1st edition PHB, which peaked at 1 million copies in 1988 and retailed for $9.95. That's $10 million in sales, but of course, they don't actually see the retail price, only half of it, retail stores keep the other half. Other products only sold 2-20% as much as the PHB, with the DMG being the second most successful book. I'd be surprised if all other products combined to even equal PHB sales.


Irontruth wrote:
The math doesn't add up for TSR to have sold $100 million in a single year. Their best product ever was the 1st edition PHB, which peaked at 1 million copies in 1988 and retailed for $9.95. That's $10 million in sales, but of course, they don't actually see the retail price, only half of it, retail stores keep the other half. Other products only sold 2-20% as much as the PHB, with the DMG being the second most successful book. I'd be surprised if all other products combined to even equal PHB sales.

TSR had branched out greatly during that time period. Their reported profits were reported to be in the 100 million range (they didn't specify whether that was gross or net, but as companies like to paint the best picture my GUESS is that it was gross).

Best product was actually the Red box which I think had estimates of over 2 million sold.

The 1e PHB differs depending on who you listen to. Low balls are actually only in the 100K range, with high balls also ranging over 2 million.

I'm not certain where all the profits came from (as TSR did NOT specify, and the people who have seen them and/or were at the company at the time looking at the accounts also haven't gone into that much detail...people OTHER than Dancey I might add) as it hasn't been clear.

I know they sold a LOT of fantasy books at the time, with several of them getting on the best seller lists (it's a sad state of the D&D books these days, oh, how the mighty have fallen) and some to critical acclaim.

I imagine that was a pretty profitable business for them at the time. I believe they had monthly releases for their fantasy novel line and some of those releases hit over a million sold in and of themselves. That can add up quickly. No confirmation whether that was one of the big boosters or not.

The core books also always made money (even if some of the other stuff did not). Of course, it's hard to keep a company up when other sales are taking money away from your black line.


To get on the NYT best seller list you need to sell about 9000 books a week. Most novels don't make a lot of money. Often times to get on the best seller list, publishers buy copies of their own book in order to pump up sales and get on the list.


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Old School - relearning how to play "make believe" with your friends in a cohesive, manageable way

New School - learning how to play a game by its rules.


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Old School - Great for a creative cooperative game between friends.

New School - Good for a game where the players and GM have very little trust in each other or their own creativity, and must lean on the crutch of overly codified rules.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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I've been following this thread with interest and will throw my own hat in the ring by saying the difference between old school and new comes down to how much time is spent in combat vs how much of the session is spent exploring.

Looking at my old D&D modules I'd say the maps take up more space than the stat blocks and that seems right to me. I find the modules interesting to read just in themselves and they speak of mystery and danger. The modern game variants have drifted away from that approach and the stats now seem to matter more than the environment. Not only that but the maps are little more than a warehouse here, or a tavern there. They're more colourful now, but too encounter specific. Mazes have become skill challenges; exploration gets glossed over ready for the next fight. A dark corridor leading into the unknown should be something in itself, not just a link section.

The other thing that killed the mystery for me was the introduction of world maps available to players, particularly human(ish) dominated worlds where there wasn't any space for the monsters. Looking at the map of Golarion the Mwangi expanse feels a bit like a nature reserve where occasionally adventurers go exploring. Discovering Greyhawk had a world map was just as disappointing. When I first started playing the world seemed huge and exciting because it had no limits. World maps impose limits on my imagination and that's a bad thing.

So old school for me is limitless exploration. Modern is bounded, encounter focused challenges. And yes, I know how old the Greyhawk map is, but I found it long after I'd switched to 3.0 - decades later.


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If exploration is a big deal for you, I'd recommend checking out the Torchbearer RPG. It was made by the people who did Burning Wheel, but the rules have been modified to focus on exploration. They took some of the suggestions from the 1st edition DMG/PHB and made them into game rules. You have to make strategic decisions about whether you have enough torches and food to go down another level in the dungeon. But the game is set up to abstract some of these things, so that mechanically they're more fluid without having to do math to figure out exactly how many minutes and seconds the players have been doing stuff.

I recommend checking it out, even if you end up not liking the system overall, it has cool ideas you can borrow and steal for whatever system you do like best.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I've got the Torchbearer book but I found it a bit formal for my tastes. Official phases, checks, resource tests... For example during the Camp phase "You may also spend a check to initiate a conflict with a fellow adventurer". I'm sure that works in a fun and free-flowing way within the game but it certainly doesn't read that way.

I've not had the chance to play the game mind you, so this is just from scanning the rules. The random events tables are great as they'll keep players on their toes and the idea of a tough as nails game where torches actually matter (and you can't just spam a light cantrip) really does appeal. Just so long as it doesn't turn into a Rogue-like game where you die of hunger in the fourth room because you were too busy looking round the next corner.

Sovereign Court

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Norman Osborne wrote:

Old School - Great for a creative cooperative game between friends.

New School - Good for a game where the players and GM have very little trust in each other or their own creativity, and must lean on the crutch of overly codified rules.

Old School - For people who like to straw-man & generalize people who prefer New School.


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Charon's Little Helper wrote:
Norman Osborne wrote:

Old School - Great for a creative cooperative game between friends.

New School - Good for a game where the players and GM have very little trust in each other or their own creativity, and must lean on the crutch of overly codified rules.

Old School - For people who like to straw-man & generalize people who prefer New School.

New School - potentially lacking the ability to recognize sarcasm


Terquem wrote:
Charon's Little Helper wrote:
Norman Osborne wrote:

Old School - Great for a creative cooperative game between friends.

New School - Good for a game where the players and GM have very little trust in each other or their own creativity, and must lean on the crutch of overly codified rules.

Old School - For people who like to straw-man & generalize people who prefer New School.
New School - potentially lacking the ability to recognize sarcasm

Old School - has a wonderful understanding of what sarcasm is.

Scarab Sages

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Both Schools - desperately want to see this thread get locked apparently


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thejeff wrote:

In keeping with my usual "old vs new is too reductive", I suspect that 5E is actually a new thing of its own, not new or old school.

The only thing that's "old school" about 5E, is that it's called "Dungeons And Dragons".

For all the old gamers that glorify AD+D, there are those like me who remember the exodus when other role playing systems became an option.

Grand Lodge

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Stormfriend wrote:
World maps impose limits on my imagination and that's a bad thing.

I was right there with you, up until this...

I can see not needing a world map as a player, but as a DM??

Without a world map, how does a DM determine what's over the next hill? Make it up? Okay, but what if the DM decides that over the next hill is a large metropolis? Yesterday it wasn't there, but poof... Today it all of a sudden is there!

...And out the window flies any semblance of realism the game world (no, not with the game's rules, just the setting the game takes place within) once had, because a city or any settlement really, has an effect upon the area that surrounds it; farming, trade, etc.

And that's just one example of why I believe that at least the DM needs a map of the game world.

Now I agree that some settings are far too small, and allow little room for everyone to co-exist in, but an infinite world (other planes of existence not withstanding) just shatters my ability to suspend my disbelief.

YMMV...

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