Winding down and starting up…

So, my second attempt at an old school game has been very successful.  Play has been nearly weekly for about five months, we’ve had a few character deaths, and I’ve had a blast.  I’ve especially enjoyed weaving pop culture references ranging from the Dresden Files to the old Friday the 13th: The Series to The Cask of Amontillado.  It is the most successful game I’ve run in a decade.

And I’m ending it, at least temporarily.

Why would I end the most successful game of mine in over ten years?  I could blame boredom but that’s too easy.  The problem is the game isn’t fun.

Now, before some old schooler goes on a Flame Princess style anti-fun rant hear me out.  City States is build on a desire to get back to my prime gaming roots as part of the old school movement.  But as I pointed out in a comment over at Grognardia despite having entered the hobby in the late 70s I am more in tune with D&D’s Silver Age (late 1st edition/early 2nd edition).  I think that is part of my issue.

I also poorly setup the sandbox aspect.  I didn’t communicate it well to players and only one really tried to drive his character.  But despite that I think I have to admit to my primary reason for boredom.

I don’t like D&D very much.  I was one of those guys in the late 70s/early 80s trying to fix D&D.  I bought RuneQuest as quickly as I could and played every system imaginable.  I was a big fan of The Fantasy Trip and later GURPS.  What playing D&D did for me was force to remember not only the good times I had playing it but the things that frustrated me.  While I can honestly say that they aren’t as bad as I remembered in the end OD&D isn’t, and probably never was, my game.

I’m sure someone from the old school movement will come to take my card, but you’ll have to pry it out of my hands along with my copy of Tunnels & Trolls.  You cannot deny the old school cred of a confirmed T&T referee.

Beyond that I’ve learned one other important lesson in this: I generally don’t do well with complex rules.  I’ve offered my group and all the players in the local club six options for a new Friday game as well as a second week night game.  Of the six three use very simple systems: Prose Descriptor Quality for two and Savage Worlds for one.  Of the three complex ones two are Basic Roleplaying variants and while the recent BRP book is a good three hundred pages either game is really about 50-100 pages of rules.  In fact, that was my goal: rules in under 100 pages for new games.  I’d also argue all three of these systems have a lot more reliance on the referee’s judgment than many modern games, especially PDQ.

What is the old man out? Rolemaster 2nd/Classic.  Yes, that is the antithesis of simple and ruling driven.  However, I’ve long thought a RM 2nd edition game in the Forgotten Realms had lots of potential and with three players interested in RM and the recent series over at The Society of Torch, Pole, and Rope on the  FR I’m willing to give it a swing, although I pitched it as two games: “Masters/Questers of the Forgotten Realms” with Rolemaster and Questers of the Middle Realms (a PDQ game) as possible rules respectively.

3 thoughts on “Winding down and starting up…

  1. I hear you on the complex rules. While I consider myself part of the OSR and I do love B/X D&D partly due to nostalgia, I also really like many new, rules-lite games. I am trying to convince many of the gamers I know to try PDQ, RISUS, T&T, Savage Worlds, Barbarians of Lemuria…

    I think that one of the reasons I like B/X D&D is because it is such a rules-lite system and I know the rules cold and that is more important to me than the fact that it is old school.

  2. Glad to hear your ran a good game and learned something about your preferences. Really, that's what it's all about. Here's hoping you soon find what you're looking for. 🙂

  3. I'm pretty much in the same boat; I started playing D&D with the red basic set / blue expert set, and the bulk of my D&D playing was in the late 80s / early 90s with 1st and some 2nd ed AD&D. The problem with it is that it is only a good game system for low level dungeon crawling, and has always fallen apart whenever you tried to introduce either more character dimensions or high-fantasy elements.

    I also never cared for rules-heavy games. In the early 90s a few friends and I did a lot of experimenting with taking various game systems and bashing them together to build the ideal game for whatever purpose. What we settled on for a fantasy game was Chaosium's Stormbringer 2nd/3rd Edition, with the magic system from Warhammer Fantasy RPG. That got you a nice, simple, percentile-based system with really good combat rules, and both the summoning-oriented magic of Stormbringer and the D&D type magic of Warhammer. It allowed us to make some truly epic-scale campaigns without being stuck with hundreds of tables or the notion that a more powerful character simply has X times more hit points or casts Y bigger fireballs.

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