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.