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Old school gaming
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Old school gaming gets defined differently depending on who you ask.

The two most common definitions—that an old game is "old school", or that the earliest edition of a ruleset is "old school"—aren't what do it for me. I don't think that Everway is old school, nor do I think that 1st edition Vampire: The Masquerade is. The definition of "old school" that I subscribe to is a style (or "school") of play that developed in the early years of the roleplaying game hobby. Although both old and modern styles are "roleplaying", the basic assumptions of how the players, the referee, characters, and world interrelate are completely different. Not better or worse, but different, and the superficial similarities make it hard for players coming from different backgrounds to appreciate the enjoyment that comes from each.

I wanted to sum up the differences succinctly right here but ended up deleting every attempt. I'll just give a link to the PDF "A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming" by Matthew Finch, which was the point of this post anyway. As it says in the blurb under the download link, "open-ended rules ... are USED very differently than rules are used in modern systems". I think anyone who is going to be giving pre-1990s rules (or new rules designed to support old school play) will increase their enjoyment tenfold by reading this brief primer. It's also well-written and a pleasure to read.

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Not yet! Thanks for the link. :D

I can't remember where I got it from. I was almost thinking it might've been you, but I guess not. There's a LOT of big names out there!

Yeah. It's amusing to see Sean Reynolds and Fang Langford in the same comments thread. I can't think of two RPG designers with more diametrically opposed philosophies!

Yeah, but I think that's why they are there. Both are undoubtably made better by discourse with people that think differently from themselves.

Oh yes, I'm sure of that. It's just odd to see a name from my mainstream-gaming reading beside a name from my way-out-there indie-gaming reading.

It is odd. That's kinda what the internet is all about though. I mean, there's a connection for you for each of them so why shouldn't there be a connection between the two of them independant of you?

Oh, and what's your opinion of Microlite20?

I kinda like it. I like the ideal of an extremely minimalist ruleset.

I like it. My only beef is that it retains the complex spell system, but that's a small thing. I've yet to run it though.

I also really like Ultramicrolite20, and for old school there is now Microlite74 (as in, 1974).

Somewhat complex. I'm thinking of adjusting it so that spell cost is Spell Level*2 -1 instead of +1. That way magic users can have some spells that they can just cast and not worry about there being a limit. It's not like fighters have a limit to the number of times they can swing a sword. That was one thing that I really liked that they did in D&Dv4.

I am reading through Microlite74 but it does seem very old-school. I'll have to wait until I'm done with it. Ultramicrolite seems seriously geared towards non-stop combat but there's nothing in the rules that don't say that a GM can't dole out experience for completing a scenario in a non-combat way.

With the spells, it's that it requires the PHB as a reference still. I like Ultramicrolite because it can all be done in my head, even character sheets. It needs to be paired with a spell system with the same feature to really get my attention. I like the idea of a system that lets me play anywhere and with no other tools but a single d20.

However, for regular tabletop, it should work great. The spells are all the PHB is used as a reference for in most D&D games anyway, so streamlining the rest just makes sense.

I guess. But there should still be a way to streamline the spells a bit more. I think I'd want to work out with the players what spells they would like to have. I find the insane amount of spells in the PHB to be a bit overwhealming.

I guess with spells, get the player to describe them, assign a difficulty, and let 'em roll. A 1st level Wish is DC about 50. Read Magic, maybe 5. 1st level Fireball is 20. Or maybe DC +5 for each d6 of damage, -5 per caster's spell level. It's all about making something up that's "reasonable". For magic ....

Or go with something points based where the player can pump in everything they've got for the one big shot but then are little more than monster bait until they've had a good night's rest. And pulling watch duty DOESN'T count!

There are a couple of systems at the Microlite wiki, though they're a pain to find due to the craptastic navigation.

Four by Five magic uses a noun-adjective spell scheme, with a fixed list of each. Spellcasting is spontaneous and gets higher DCs the more frequently it's done before rest.

Open Ended Magic System is more free-form. DCs are fixed, and exceeding a DC enough allows adjustments for functional aspects of spells such as damage dice and area of effect. Same daily-limit mechanic as 4x5 Magic.

4x5 would be good for experienced role-players. Although you could always make up a list before-hand. I bet it pretty much covers everything possible. And I don't see why Time can't be an "energy", or intangible reality. I'm wondering if some of the DCs are a bit high though. I'm not familar enough with the game to know if high level magic users are really as powerful as they should be.

The examples also use hihg die-rolls. I want to see what it's like to play a magic user rolling 15 or less 4 times in a row.

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