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


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Yesterday, a new Kickstarter for a third printing of the Swords & Wizardry rules funded in about 15 hours. Last month, I wrote a post over at BlackGate.com on why I chose Swords & Wizardry and old school gaming over Pathfinder and a more modern approach for running my latest game.

There will be a follow-up post, talking about the merits of Pathfinder over old school as well. Thought folks might find it interesting, as it did well at BlackGate.


I will support, fully, an Old School Gaming rules system that can successfully...

Make me twelve years old again


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Terquem - gamers at my S&W table act like they're 12 years old some time. I think that's as close as we'll get!


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Have no fear - I'm not taking a break from the thread again.

I'm going to be contributing to a new RPG column for BlackGate.com (I already write a mystery-themed one there) and I'm getting some stuff together before launch in a couple months. Today I was working on a post related to game balance/level appropriate challenges. I'm both for and against it.

Though I use Goodman Games' 4th Edition module, Forges of the Mountain King as an example of ridiculous unbalance at the beginning.

Grand Lodge

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Are you getting paid for clicks? If you want to have a discussion here, why don't you post the substance your article here instead of pimping some third party website?

I don't get why people try to drive a wedge between "old school gamers" and "modern gamers." I started gaming in 1985 and I run games basically the same as I did then. The mechanics are different, but we had different games with different mechanics back then, too.

The things that have changed for me are:
Time - I have a lot less of it, so I leverage published adventures/campaigns instead of creating my own stuff;
Money - I have a lot more of it and I can afford to buy gaming books, miniatures, maps, tools, etc.;
Technology - I have a tablet that I can store all my books on and access the internet.

Beyond that, I still use pens/pencils, paper, dice, and imagination. That's like 95% of it.

-Skeld


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Spooky.

I think I might be skeld. (Except without the shipping privileges).

I like both kinds of games (although currently my group doesn't want to play either!)

Grand Lodge

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Steve Geddes wrote:
I think I might be skeld.

I am so very sorry.

-Skeld

Dark Archive

Does this violate one of those rules, I feel like it does?


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Skeld wrote:


I don't get why people try to drive a wedge between "old school gamers" and "modern gamers." I started gaming in 1985 and I run games basically the same as I did then. The mechanics are different, but we had different games with different mechanics back then, too.

The things that have changed for me are:
Time - I have a lot less of it, so I leverage published adventures/campaigns instead of creating my own stuff;
Money - I have a lot more of it and I can afford to buy gaming books, miniatures, maps, tools, etc.;
Technology - I have a tablet that I can store all my books on and access the internet.

Beyond that, I still use pens/pencils, paper, dice, and imagination. That's like 95% of it.

Same here, but I started in 1974.

Oh there have been a few small changes, but it's about the same.

Pathfinder has given up on the diabolical Gygaxian traps that we loved back in the old days. I miss those.


HolmesandWatson wrote:

Have no fear - I'm not taking a break from the thread again.

I'm going to be contributing to a new RPG column for BlackGate.com (I already write a mystery-themed one there) and I'm getting some stuff together before launch in a couple months. Today I was working on a post related to game balance/level appropriate challenges. I'm both for and against it.

Though I use Goodman Games' 4th Edition module, Forges of the Mountain King as an example of ridiculous unbalance at the beginning.

I meant to post this on the 'Role Playing Mastery' thread I'm running, not here. Sorry about that.


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You can probably make another post flag it, and ask a mod to move it in that same post.


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Skeld wrote:
Are you getting paid for clicks? If you want to have a discussion here, why don't you post the substance your article here instead of pimping some third party website?

No, I don't get paid a cent. It's a really long post to put up here (well over a thousand words), and I can't incorporate graphics here. So, I refer to the OP.

Skeld wrote:

I don't get why people try to drive a wedge between "old school gamers" and "modern gamers." I started gaming in 1985 and I run games basically the same as I did then. The mechanics are different, but we had different games with different mechanics back then, too.

The things that have changed for me are:
Time - I have a lot less of it, so I leverage published adventures/campaigns instead of creating my own stuff;
Money - I have a lot more of it and I can afford to buy gaming books, miniatures, maps, tools, etc.;
Technology - I have a tablet that I can store all my books on and access the internet.

Beyond that, I still use pens/pencils, paper, dice, and imagination. That's like 95% of it.

-Skeld

Talking about something isn't 'driving a wedge' unless you take a tone that makes it that way. I don't think I did that.

The game isn't played the same as it was. There wouldn't have been the movement for retroclones if the two styles were the same. Do you disagree with Matt Finch's four 'Zen Moments'?

I'm not saying either S&W or Pathfinder is better. But I'm working on a follow-up post that looks at a more modern approach in light of the OP. Running a S&W game and at the same time re-reading the PF rules for the next campaign, beginning at character creation ,there is a difference in approach and play. Just as there's a difference between playing an MMO RPG and a pen and paper RPG.

Football and baseball and basketball are different than they used to be. Stuff changes. I play Pathfinder and Swords & Wizardry. You can like different approaches and even try to merge them, like Creighton Broadhust talks about in his blog.

But the distinction is there and I find it interesting enough to write about.


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I probably sound like a broken record, but I do keep being struck by the focus on "old school" and "new school" gaming, when those are really just two of many "schools" of gaming. Ones focused very much on D&D and its clones, retro or otherwise. Styles that, despite their very real differences, are still much closer than those common to many other RPGs.

Even among old games, things don't fit into "old school". Champions isn't old school. Call of Cthulhu isn't old school. Both of those date to the early 80s.
Vampire and other WoD stuff was very popular in the 90s, rivaling AD&D, and also wasn't old or new school.
Some of my other old favorites, like Feng Shui or Amber aren't anything like either. More modern experiments with narrative mechanics, like Fiasco or Dogs in the Vineyard are even farther away. Even things like Dungeon World, which tries for an old school feel, has a very different approach.

You can look at most of these from an old school/new school view point and try to classify them based on the differences you think important, but that doesn't capture the real differences between the styles of game.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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If you resolve every action by moving a Jenga block, and your character dies if you knock it over; is that "old school" or "new school"?

;)


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Jiggy wrote:

If you resolve every action by moving a Jenga block, and your character dies if you knock it over; is that "old school" or "new school"?

;)

With the way I play Jenga "quick school" maybe?

*pulls another characters sheet from the pile of copies*


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So where does 5e D&D fit on that spectrum?

Grand Lodge

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HolmesandWatson wrote:
Skeld wrote:
Are you getting paid for clicks? If you want to have a discussion here, why don't you post the substance your article here instead of pimping some third party website?

No, I don't get paid a cent. It's a really long post to put up here (well over a thousand words), and I can't incorporate graphics here. So, I refer to the OP.

Skeld wrote:

I don't get why people try to drive a wedge between "old school gamers" and "modern gamers." I started gaming in 1985 and I run games basically the same as I did then. The mechanics are different, but we had different games with different mechanics back then, too.

The things that have changed for me are:
Time - I have a lot less of it, so I leverage published adventures/campaigns instead of creating my own stuff;
Money - I have a lot more of it and I can afford to buy gaming books, miniatures, maps, tools, etc.;
Technology - I have a tablet that I can store all my books on and access the internet.

Beyond that, I still use pens/pencils, paper, dice, and imagination. That's like 95% of it.

-Skeld

Talking about something isn't 'driving a wedge' unless you take a tone that makes it that way. I don't think I did that.

The game isn't played the same as it was. There wouldn't have been the movement for retroclones if the two styles were the same. Do you disagree with Matt Finch's four 'Zen Moments'?

I'm not saying either S&W or Pathfinder is better. But I'm working on a follow-up post that looks at a more modern approach in light of the OP. Running a S&W game and at the same time re-reading the PF rules for the next campaign, beginning at character creation ,there is a difference in approach and play. Just as there's a difference between playing an MMO RPG and a pen and paper RPG.

Football and baseball and basketball are different than they used to be. Stuff changes. I play Pathfinder and Swords & Wizardry. You can like different approaches and even try to merge them, like Creighton Broadhust talks about in...

I've never heard of Matt Finch or his four zen whatevers, so I have no opinion on it other than it sounds like more gaming-related naval gazing.

I attribute the resurgence of Old School Gaming and retroclones to the fact that Old Guysnwere nostalgic for that thing they played when they first started gaming, the fact that the thing they were nostalgic for is long out of print, and that the OGL can be interpreted in such a way to allow enterprising individuals to recreate that thing (with maybe a couple "improvements").

When I talked about people turning this into a wedge issue, I didn't necessarily mean you. This topic comes up a lot. Old School and "modern" gaming are still fundamentally the same. Only the mechanics (and rules codification) are different. PF has so many nods and callbacks to OD&D that it's humorous. People playing Old School games and Pathfinder are still doing basically the same thing. The differences are (mechanical and) small. Laborious discussion amounts to making mountains out of mole hills.

-Skeld

Grand Lodge

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

It's neo-classical post-modernism.

-Skeld


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You forgot retro-experimental.


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Skeld wrote:

I've never heard of Matt Finch or his four zen whatevers, so I have no opinion on it other than it sounds like more gaming-related naval gazing.

I attribute the resurgence of Old School Gaming and retroclones to the fact that Old Guysnwere nostalgic for that thing they played when they first started gaming, the fact that the thing they were nostalgic for is long out of print, and that the OGL can be interpreted in such a way to allow enterprising individuals to recreate that thing (with maybe a couple "improvements").

When I talked about people turning this into a wedge issue, I didn't necessarily mean you. This topic comes up a lot. Old School and "modern" gaming are still fundamentally the same. Only the mechanics (and rules codification) are different. PF has so many nods and callbacks to OD&D that it's humorous. People playing Old School games and Pathfinder are still doing basically the same thing. The differences are (mechanical and) small. Laborious discussion amounts to making mountains out of mole hills.

I don't agree Old school games and Pathfinder differences are small. Compare it to watching a college football team, running a wishbone, play a team running a run and shoot - they're both football, but they're sure as heck not similar.

You could at least read the Black Gate post that is the basis of this whole thread. Matt Finch's distinctions are the core of it. You aren't going to change your mind, but you may end up acknowledging some of the points.


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Skeld wrote:
I've never heard of Matt Finch or his four zen whatevers, so I have no opinion on it other than it sounds like more gaming-related naval gazing.

Distinguishing features of oldschool games, in this view:

1. Rulings over rules
2. Player skill is valued over character skill
3. PCs are heroes rather than superheroes
4. Game balance is unimportant

Personally, I think the first three are about playstyle rather than being differences between the games (and like you, I don't think there's a significant difference in the games - we play PF in a way that would be labelled "old school" according to the above).

I do think that game balance is more important to modern designers than it was to early game designers.


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HolmesandWatson wrote:
Skeld wrote:

I've never heard of Matt Finch or his four zen whatevers, so I have no opinion on it other than it sounds like more gaming-related naval gazing.

I attribute the resurgence of Old School Gaming and retroclones to the fact that Old Guysnwere nostalgic for that thing they played when they first started gaming, the fact that the thing they were nostalgic for is long out of print, and that the OGL can be interpreted in such a way to allow enterprising individuals to recreate that thing (with maybe a couple "improvements").

When I talked about people turning this into a wedge issue, I didn't necessarily mean you. This topic comes up a lot. Old School and "modern" gaming are still fundamentally the same. Only the mechanics (and rules codification) are different. PF has so many nods and callbacks to OD&D that it's humorous. People playing Old School games and Pathfinder are still doing basically the same thing. The differences are (mechanical and) small. Laborious discussion amounts to making mountains out of mole hills.

I don't agree Old school games and Pathfinder differences are small. Compare it to watching a college football team, running a wishbone, play a team running a run and shoot - they're both football, but they're sure as heck not similar.

You could at least read the Black Gate post that is the basis of this whole thread. Matt Finch's distinctions are the core of it. You aren't going to change your mind, but you may end up acknowledging some of the points.

Again, it depends on what you're looking at.

If you're only looking at D&D & its clones, then old school vs new school looks like a huge distinction. When you bring in other pen & paper RPGs you realize how close the styles really are. And how close the games really are. To the point that some of the distinctions the schools rely don't even really apply.

But then I think I always tended to take a "new school" twist to AD&D and an "old school" one to PF - resulting in similar game styles. Ones which were very different from our Champions games or our Cthulhu games or from Amber or Feng Shui.

It's also not really clear to me how much the features you point at were actually important to the old school games, though they may be features of the revival.
IME, AD&D was always a game of rules, not rulings. Often misunderstood incomprehensible rules, but still built on hard and fast rules. Rules and tables for everything. There were huge gaps where GMs had to make rulings, but standard practice was to codify those rulings as house rules. Unlike actual rules-light systems where the structure provides a framework to make one-off rulings so you don't need to make house rules.

Player/character skill was more a problem early games struggled with than anything intended - thus the exhortations not to let players read the DMG or Monster Manual. And the introduction of the thief class with mechanics to handle traps.

Power levels are definitely higher in PF, but that's more a feature of how expected it is to reach the higher levels. Most of the "superhero" power was either baked into the initial spell lists or introduced as an attempt to help martials keep up with higher level casters.

Gary talks about balance. There are obvious attempts at balance in the old rules. I suspect the big difference is that they just weren't that good at it. And even at that, some of the big martial/caster balancing factors were removed at the start of the new school. Balance in encounters was less formalized, but the expectations were there - more dangerous monsters deeper in the dungeon or farther into the wilderness.

Honestly, to me the biggest difference between old and new D&D is that new school D&D is a character building game with an interactive part strapped on, while old school D&D is focused on the actual playing teh game part.

Shadow Lodge

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HolmesandWatson wrote:
You could at least read the Black Gate post that is the basis of this whole thread. Matt Finch's distinctions are the core of it. You aren't going to change your mind, but you may end up acknowledging some of the points.

My usual response to people quoting Matt Finch is to link this.

Grand Lodge

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HolmesandWatson wrote:
Skeld wrote:

I've never heard of Matt Finch or his four zen whatevers, so I have no opinion on it other than it sounds like more gaming-related naval gazing.

I attribute the resurgence of Old School Gaming and retroclones to the fact that Old Guysnwere nostalgic for that thing they played when they first started gaming, the fact that the thing they were nostalgic for is long out of print, and that the OGL can be interpreted in such a way to allow enterprising individuals to recreate that thing (with maybe a couple "improvements").

When I talked about people turning this into a wedge issue, I didn't necessarily mean you. This topic comes up a lot. Old School and "modern" gaming are still fundamentally the same. Only the mechanics (and rules codification) are different. PF has so many nods and callbacks to OD&D that it's humorous. People playing Old School games and Pathfinder are still doing basically the same thing. The differences are (mechanical and) small. Laborious discussion amounts to making mountains out of mole hills.

I don't agree Old school games and Pathfinder differences are small. Compare it to watching a college football team, running a wishbone, play a team running a run and shoot - they're both football, but they're sure as heck not similar.

You could at least read the Black Gate post that is the basis of this whole thread. Matt Finch's distinctions are the core of it. You aren't going to change your mind, but you may end up acknowledging some of the points.

Nah. I'm not interested in going offsite to read a blog.

Assuming Steve's points are on target, and I have no reason to doubt him, what you're differentiating as "old school" and "modern" are playstyle differencess, not game system differencess. I can play a modern game in an old school game style (hey, that's exactly what I do!) or an older game in a modern playstyle. I don't need to change game system from Pathfinder to a retroclones to go Old School.

-Skeld
-


while not specifically about the comparison of S&W to Pathfinder, it has been my experience that the most significant distinction between "old School" and "New School" gaming was the introduction of feats (which to my delight are not as relevant in 5e).

In that, so many particular and explicitly defined "maneuvers" or ""tricks" or "item creation attempts" are defined by feats in newer version of the game (Pathfinder, 3.0 D&D) that it is difficult (but not necessarily impossible) to play without the strict enforcement of the rules associated with these feats


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TOZ wrote:
My usual response to people quoting Matt Finch is to link this.

On Finch v. Alexander I am tempted to plug Torchbearer as a game the enshrines GM fiat in exactly the manner described by Finch, but retains the niceties of a mechanized skill system.

They do it by making interaction a commodity. A certain level of thoughtful interaction -- as long as it makes sense -- will spare you from making a roll. And in Torchbearer, not making a roll can be a very good thing, since rolls drive the clock for hunger and light.

It's interesting here, because in a lot of ways it proves (for me) in practice that both Finch and Alexander's premises are flawed, although their discussions both contain a great many truths.

At the end of the day, GMing is an act of performance. Rules and consistency are like stagecraft-- they help with suspension of disbelief, and keep the audience (and the actors) in the scene. But if the performance is sufficiently honed, and the performers are all working together, you can do it all in black turtlenecks on an empty stage and pull it off.

A purified form of Finch's thesis would involve no rules whatsoever. And this CAN be done. Because this can be done, his thesis is essentially correct.

But consistency (and stagecraft) are an art unto themselves, and when properly executed can elevate the experience. I think that Alexander is merely saying, don't just throw out 40 years of development without looking at why it was there. That's quite correct, in my view.

But there's a dark side to his end of this, too. In continuing with my stagecraft metaphor, it's the equivalent of a Michael Bay film -- all sets, effects and stagecraft with no performance to speak of. Some audience can tune into a performance of mere explosions and enjoy themselves, but others will wake as though from a nightmare, wondering, what's going on? Why should I care?

I think we've all played in that session too.

At the end of the day, I recommend GMs be mindful that their principle task is to present information in an entertaining way; enough information for the players to make a meaningful choice at each interval. You can and should maintain a decent, consistent rules apparatus in service to that goal.

The difference between a great Old School GM and and great New School GM, in practice, is virtually invisible.


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Wait, are you suggesting that it is actually all about how you play the game, when you play it, that matters?

*pffft* where's the fun in arguing about that?

Dark Archive

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You know what is an old school game I like? The old TSR Marvel Heroes game.

You know why it's old school? Because it is old.


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Most of this relies on arbitrary definitions and without regard to the width and breadth of gaming. It sets up gaming as being defined essentially by AD&D vs Pathfinder/4E, completely ignoring that thousands of other games exist. There's a sentiment I run into fairly often, people consider themselves widely experienced RP'ers, because they've played all the editions of D&D. Unfortunately, they've never played a game that wasn't D&D or at very closely related to it.

People drift/hack rules all the time. I currently run a Pathfinder campaign and I award more XP for story events than I do for combat. Combat typically results in bigger specific rewards (up to 5 times as much as a single story scene, but usually 2-3), but the way we play, story rewards happen probably 4-5 times more frequently. I want combat to feel important and relevant, but I also want my players to feel like they can approach things with alternate solutions and engage with the story.

I play a lot of different games. I'm certainly no the most experienced person I know, but in the past 5 years, I've played games by at least 15 publishers, some of those publishers having multiple games that are each very different from one another. I'd estimate the number of games to be about 35-40, though probably 15-20 of them fall into a couple groups of related games (D&D and PBTA being my most common family trees). Some of these games have wildly different approaches to the concept of roleplaying, story and player interaction.

The Quiet Year is a game about a small community surviving in the aftermath of some sort of cataclysm. There's no GM. Players take turns narrating scenes. On your turn, you draw a card from the deck and it tells you the nature of the event, it's up to you to interpret it and tell a quick story about what happens to the community. The other players can't talk during this. They can express their pleasure/displeasure with your story through playing/taking tokens, but that's it. They can't talk until it's their turn (hence the game's title, "The Quiet Year").

Where does a game like The Quiet Year fall on your "AD&D vs Pathfinder" scale?


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I don't think that old school vs new school is arbitrary so much as completely D&D-centric, because D&D is one of the few brands out there that decide to cure their success with previous editions by complete revamping their game mechanics. Though I am curious whether there would have been a similar fan creator reaction after Traveller: The New Era was published if the OGL had existed at the time.

I can't say I've played The Quiet Year, but from your description it sounds like a story game, which falls completely outside my "AD&D vs Pathfinder" scale. How do you think Goblinoid Games' republication of Pacesetter system games after establishing their company with Labyrinth Lord, a B/X retroclone, relates to the D&D based OSR?

Dark Archive

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To me, old school vs new school doesn't exist. It's just a nostalgia trip for people to gripe about.


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Irontruth wrote:

Most of this relies on arbitrary definitions and without regard to the width and breadth of gaming. It sets up gaming as being defined essentially by AD&D vs Pathfinder/4E, completely ignoring that thousands of other games exist. There's a sentiment I run into fairly often, people consider themselves widely experienced RP'ers, because they've played all the editions of D&D. Unfortunately, they've never played a game that wasn't D&D or at very closely related to it.

The Quiet Year is a game about a small community surviving in the aftermath of some sort of cataclysm. There's no GM. Players take turns narrating scenes. On your turn, you draw a card from the deck and it tells you the nature of the event, it's up to you to interpret it and tell a quick story about what happens to the community. The other players can't talk during this. They can express their pleasure/displeasure with your story through playing/taking tokens, but that's it. They can't talk until it's their turn (hence the game's title, "The Quiet Year").

Where does a game like The Quiet Year fall on your "AD&D vs Pathfinder" scale?

To me, based just on that description, it falls completely outside the roleplaying game scale, not just the AD&D vs PF scale.

There are plenty of games that are very definitely classic roleplaying games that still don't fit in the old vs new distinction.


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NenkotaMoon wrote:
To me, old school vs new school doesn't exist. It's just a nostalgia trip for people to gripe about.

The differences exist. They're real and they matter. Different games push or even force different playstyles. You can push back against it, but only so far.

I just think old vs new is a very limiting way of looking at it, being only 2 among many schools of gaming.


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

It's an oversimplification that some make to differentiate "rules light" (which AD&D wasn't, really; people just ignored, modified, or replaced a lot of them) and "more comprehensive" rule sets, anyway.


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Hitdice wrote:

I don't think that old school vs new school is arbitrary so much as completely D&D-centric, because D&D is one of the few brands out there that decide to cure their success with previous editions by complete revamping their game mechanics. Though I am curious whether there would have been a similar fan creator reaction after Traveller: The New Era was published if the OGL had existed at the time.

I can't say I've played The Quiet Year, but from your description it sounds like a story game, which falls completely outside my "AD&D vs Pathfinder" scale. How do you think Goblinoid Games' republication of Pacesetter system games after establishing their company with Labyrinth Lord, a B/X retroclone, relates to the D&D based OSR?

I think it is an RPG. I don't mind the sub-classification of "story game" within RPG's, but if we were to sit down and try to categorize all games between story and RPG, the line would be way too blurred to create a useful distinction. In comparison, I think we can delineate between board game and RPG much more easily, even if a few games blend elements of each. Most any simple convention we might use as criteria for what is a story game and isn't an RPG is probably already broken by a game that has been considered an RPG for 20+ years.

As for Goblinoid Games' products, you'd have to tell me more than just elements of lineage, like what the game is actually like. I'm only moderately familiar with OSR games, my knowledge doesn't run very deep. I own a lot of LotFP products, have played Whitehack, generally familiar with the concept, but I can't tell you specific rules in different versions, so if you don't talk about them specifically, I won't be able to comment.

I think there is a lot of space to talk about how we approach games, and how game mechanics influence how we approach the game.

For example, the width and breadth of feat design has a significant impact on how potential character actions are viewed. If Paizo designs a feat that makes tying your shoe laces more efficient, the implication is that without the feat, tying your shoe laces should be inefficient. With the push to constantly create new feats, this means that designers are always creating more and more fences around things that seem like they were open to characters before, but now become the domain of feats. This can easily translate into GM and player perception of characters as well. As the list of feats you don't have becomes longer, that lack of feats becomes a negative drag on what a character is capable of and can cause both sides to view the character as more limited.

It isn't guaranteed that every GM and player will reach this conclusion, but it is an influence and if a group doesn't want it to be, they either have to actively counter it (perhaps unconsciously) or switch systems. Some groups will see it as a positive and embrace it, enjoying the challenge of building characters who are capable of things other characters aren't. I have a player in one of my groups who loves longs lists of feats because he wants to come up with unusual combos, no broken ones, but strange ones that others haven't thought of. In a more open ended system that doesn't rigidly define character aspects, this isn't available to him and he's not as happy.


I think that the main difference is play style , and certain types of system help with one style more than another.
To me old school is a rules light system which encourages a more story based game and story development is more important than character development and rules are guidelines open to interpretation.
New school tend to be more complex rules systems and character development is a priority and rules are less open to debate
(Which ironical often leads to more disagreements over the rules) , I think either style can be played with any system but as I said earlier some systems lend themselves to one style better than another.
But as long as everyone is have fun then it matters not a rats cock how you play


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tony gent wrote:

I think that the main difference is play style , and certain types of system help with one style more than another.

To me old school is a rules light system which encourages a more story based game and story development is more important than character development and rules are guidelines open to interpretation.
New school tend to be more complex rules systems and character development is a priority and rules are less open to debate
(Which ironical often leads to more disagreements over the rules) , I think either style can be played with any system but as I said earlier some systems lend themselves to one style better than another.
But as long as everyone is have fun then it matters not a rats cock how you play

Whereas I'd say that rules-light is a more modern innovation. Granted modern, in this context probably means 80s, but still. D&D came directly out of wargaming and was very definitely a rules heavy game. If it seems rules-light today that's because there were huge gaps in the rules where the need hadn't been foreseen and because some of the rules were pretty much incomprehensible.

Character build development is certainly more of a thing in new school D&D.


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HolmesandWatson wrote:
The game isn't played the same as it was. There wouldn't have been the movement for retroclones if the two styles were the same. Do you disagree with Matt Finch's four 'Zen Moments'?

I would say that they reflect a narrow view of gaming. Folks who play D+D and D20 style games tend to think that their way of gaming was the majority if not the whole of roleplaying. That wasn't even true even back in the days when there was a TSR.


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tony gent wrote:


To me old school is a rules light system which encourages a more story based game and story development is more important than character development and rules are guidelines open to interpretation.
New school tend to be more complex rules systems and character development is a priority and rules are less open to debate

I'd say the exact opposite. The problem is that the old school/new school divide gets completely thrown out the window, once you realize that gaming history isn't just the history of Dungeons and Dragons.

Storytelling style gaming has been around since the 1980's with companies such as Lion Rampant and their creation of Ars Magica, which later merged with White Wolf Magazine to become maker of the Storyteller games line. The revolt against the rigidity of AD+D led to a mass exodus from the game, and ultimately the retooling which resulted in the new wave of D+D gaming starting with 3.0.

The Tri-Stat system has to be pretty much the most rules light system out there... save that it's not really out there that much any more.

So "new school" gaming has been around before most of the present generation of gamers was even born.


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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 do to a certain extent. Even looking at D+D alone, it's a world of difference today as opposed to when your character choices were described exactly as fighter, magic-user, cleric, theif, and elf, dwarf, and hafling. (In Grandfolk's day, Virginia, races other than human, were classes.)

On the other hand being able to choose a race independently of class, and them the ability to modify class vs archetype will put you into patterns of thought that would not have occurred with the old system.


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This is the best classification of RPGs I've seen. Sadly it's outdated, running only up to 2004.

Basically:

Quote:

1975-1980: Explorational Wargames

D&D, Melee, et al.
1978-1988: Literary Simplicity
Call of Cthulhu, Pendragon, et al.
1980-1988: Rules-Heavy Worlds
RoleMaster, HârnMaster, et al.
1984-1993: Comical Rules-Lite
Toon, Marvel Superheroes, et al.
1986-Present: Universal Problem-Solving
GURPS and its imitators.
1987-Present: Fast Cinematic Action
Star Wars, Feng Shui, et al.
1991-Present: Dark Storytelling
Vampire: The Masquerade, et al.
1991-Present: Diceless Fantasy
Amber Diceless, Everway, et al.
2000-Present: Crunchy Challenge
D&D3 / D20, Rune, et al.

It would definitely need updating. I'd add at least something for narrative mechanics. The OSR probably warrants an entry of its own. I think it's actually pretty distinct from what the early days really were like.


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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.

I don't think mechanics mandate playstyle, but the impact it.

The analogy I use is that a game is like a tool box. If you have a carpenter's tool box, full of carpentry tools, you can still fix a fair number of things on a car. You can't fix everything though, and odds are it'll require more effort on your part to finish the job.

Sometimes we're so adept with a specific game, that we can more easily mold it into what we want. Or we've spent so much time already molding it into our play style, that we don't realize how much we've changed it already.

Someone already referenced Dread earlier, which is a great example. If you're playing a one-shot horror game, you're going to need to severely modify D&D to make it work well. On the other hand, you could just play Dread and not modify anything, allowing the games mechanics to work for you to create a horror story.

You could try to use D&D to play a game set in Roger Zelazny's Amber setting, but it would be awkward and require significant revision of the rules, especially if the players are lords of amber. Or you could use the Amber DRPG a game designed to reflect the setting, themes and tone of the books.

How the GM and players approach the game is more important than mechanics in determining play style, but mechanics are still an influence on the nature of the game.


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thejeff wrote:

This is the best classification of RPGs I've seen. Sadly it's outdated, running only up to 2004.

Basically:

Quote:

1975-1980: Explorational Wargames

D&D, Melee, et al.
1978-1988: Literary Simplicity
Call of Cthulhu, Pendragon, et al.
1980-1988: Rules-Heavy Worlds
RoleMaster, HârnMaster, et al.
1984-1993: Comical Rules-Lite
Toon, Marvel Superheroes, et al.
1986-Present: Universal Problem-Solving
GURPS and its imitators.
1987-Present: Fast Cinematic Action
Star Wars, Feng Shui, et al.
1991-Present: Dark Storytelling
Vampire: The Masquerade, et al.
1991-Present: Diceless Fantasy
Amber Diceless, Everway, et al.
2000-Present: Crunchy Challenge
D&D3 / D20, Rune, et al.

It would definitely need updating. I'd add at least something for narrative mechanics. The OSR probably warrants an entry of its own. I think it's actually pretty distinct from what the early days really were like.

Well, since his diceless category includes games that use dice or just use a different randomizer, could just change that to narrative.


thejeff wrote:
Gary talks about balance. There are obvious attempts at balance in the old rules. I suspect the big difference is that they just weren't that good at it.

Looking at 'old school' from wayyy outside let me just say that it looks to me like Gygax took the design approach in steps.

Step 1) Hmm, that would be a cool thing to incorporate into D&D.

Step 2) Let me gamify it thusly.

Step 3) Whoops! Now let me tweak it so it fits better with pre-existing canon.

Step 4) Hey all you other DMs! New idea here. Sand the rough edges to fit your campaign.

Which, putting it like that, does fit the "rulings over rules" mantra.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Irontruth wrote:
You could try to use D&D to play a game set in Roger Zelazny's Amber setting, but it would be awkward and require significant revision of the rules, especially if the players are lords of amber.

Yes and no.

You would need to significantly revise the planar cosmology (along all of the spells associated with/affected by that cosmology) and invent some custom magic items/item creation rules, but many of the mechanics could still serve. Treat the Lords of Amber as quasi-dieties or demigods (which is what they are), possibly with the optional psionics rules in the 1st Ed AD&D Player's Handbook, and you can absolutely play a "D&D" game in an Amber setting.


Dragonchess Player wrote:
Irontruth wrote:
You could try to use D&D to play a game set in Roger Zelazny's Amber setting, but it would be awkward and require significant revision of the rules, especially if the players are lords of amber.

Yes and no.

You would need to significantly revise the planar cosmology (along all of the spells associated with/affected by that cosmology) and invent some custom magic items/item creation rules, but many of the mechanics could still serve. Treat the Lords of Amber as quasi-dieties or demigods (which is what they are), possibly with the optional psionics rules in the 1st Ed AD&D Player's Handbook, and you can absolutely play a "D&D" game in an Amber setting.

As he said, you could "but it would be awkward and require significant revision of the rules".

You'd also need to introduce mechanics to replicate the powers the Lords of Amber (or of Chaos) have access to: Pattern, Trump, Logrus, etc. Change the class structure drastically, since everyone gets at least some of the powers.

And it wouldn't get you anything like the feel of playing Amber. Mechanics matter. They don't dictate, but they do matter. You can warp them to play a style of game they're not designed for, but you're fighting against them to do so.


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For me Old School (I started way back in the early 80s) is more of a crude form of gaming. Think of it like this. Gaming back when I was a kid was much different. The way I looked at the problems and the solutions I used to solve them are much different than those I have used as an adult (new school the last 15 to 20 years). The rules dictated what I wanted to play in a manner I chose before I even knew the quest(ion). So things have changed and not just the rules. I have played many games over the years. In the early days it was D&D, AD&D, Champions (1,2&3), Judge Dredd (My first introduction to that comic), Star Wars and many others.

The mainstreem of gaming changed during the 90s with the first generations of Vampire and Werewolf by Whitewolf Games later to be known as WoD gaming system (Not the company just the rules set). This changed things as it started to bring more and more females into the fold. Not only that but the LARP of Vampire, NERO, Dark Confrontation and many others gave women the chance to dress up and get involved in the Gothic romance of it all. The world was on fire exploding with new gamers in differing styles and the gaming companies took notice. Players took notice and things began to tilt towards mainstream.

Enter the modern age of gaming. We had Everquest, WoW and a few other games that changed the gaming industry once again. Now not only could you play the games on paper in your home but you got great visuals on the computer. I know what you are thinking, this has nothing to do with pen and paper games. Yes it most certainly does. The market just grew and it did not even know it at first. While I myself did not play much of the computer games (I did play a little WOW) this grabbed a new generation of gamers young and old alike. A revamped D&D from the ashes of a folded icon. TSR was no longer, Wizards of the Coast gobbled them up only to be gobbled up later by Hasbro. It started slow at first but this changed everything again. Money backed the industry and could keep it alive long enough to produce quality books and spawn so much material with the OGL (Open Gaming License) we still use it today.

So old school mechanics and old school (youthful ignorance) was the old way. New mechanics and much more matured approach to not only solving the problems but actually giving life to a personality while playing it. Its a role you play out as well as rolling the dice.


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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.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
thejeff wrote:
Dragonchess Player wrote:
Irontruth wrote:
You could try to use D&D to play a game set in Roger Zelazny's Amber setting, but it would be awkward and require significant revision of the rules, especially if the players are lords of amber.

Yes and no.

You would need to significantly revise the planar cosmology (along all of the spells associated with/affected by that cosmology) and invent some custom magic items/item creation rules, but many of the mechanics could still serve. Treat the Lords of Amber as quasi-dieties or demigods (which is what they are), possibly with the optional psionics rules in the 1st Ed AD&D Player's Handbook, and you can absolutely play a "D&D" game in an Amber setting.

As he said, you could "but it would be awkward and require significant revision of the rules".

You'd also need to introduce mechanics to replicate the powers the Lords of Amber (or of Chaos) have access to: Pattern, Trump, Logrus, etc. Change the class structure drastically, since everyone gets at least some of the powers.

1) Really, just planar cosmology, the spell lists, and magic items. "Pattern-wrought" objects can be used as flavor for a many "standard" magic items.

2) Quasi-dieties and demigods have levels in multiple classes. Trying to play a "Lord of Amber" as a 1st level character is a gross mischaracterization of what they are.

The point is that it's closer than you're implying if you understand where a Lord of Amber fits in the AD&D power scale. Again, you're playing a quasi-diety/demigod.


And D&D (in nearly any edition) doesn't deal well with playing demigods. Yes, it's possible to play that way, and it can even be fun and interesting. It's not the ideal system to do that with though and other systems will be easier and require less effort to get them to work.

I'm not talking about what is possible. I'm talking about efficiency.

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.

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