... now with 35% more arrogance!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Old School Player Manifesto: Further Commentary

In the comments on the Old School Player Manifesto, two people suggested additional rules. Will Douglas suggested “Listen to the referee, but don’t argue with them.” I see that as a guideline for decent behavior in general, rather than something specific to old school play, or even specific to RPGs. Plus, I think it’s fine to disagree and suggest something different. It’s just a problem when the GM or another player listens to your suggestion, decides not to use it, and you can’t accept that.

Rod Thompson suggested a different rule: “Characters die.” I have a much stronger opinion about that.

I think people make way too big a deal about character death in old school games. I’ve only had one TPK in almost 40 years, and I haven’t had that many individual character deaths. It’s not really that old school RPGs are deadly. It’s just that old school RPGs usually don’t protect characters from death. Characters are just as fragile as monsters, and hit points are typically low to begin with.
There is a certain sentiment in OSR games, though, that Rod might be thinking of… In old-school thinking, it’s best to just move on when a character dies, rather than fret about it. New school games do a lot more character prep than old school games, and I’m not just talking in terms of time needed or math required.

New school games are more about imagining as much as you can about your character before play even begins, becoming invested in your character. So much so that new school players think a game is broken if it doesn’t support their character concept out of the box. “Why can’t I be a first level Master of Time, Space and Dimension? This game is unplayable!”

Old school games are more about growing into your character as you play and accepting what happens as part of your character’s story. Death has to be possible so that you work to avoid it, but if it happens, it happens… and it’s OK, because some of the best moments come when you are first figuring out a character, not after the character has achieved all their major goals.

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  1. Yep. My comment wasn't as much about characters dying in Old School, as much as about some observed behaviors of players in New School games. So, now I'm upfront with my players, characters are not guaranteed to survive no matter which School I'm running.

    1. Good move!

      I think there's some room to explore a GM using old school rules behind the curtain, while players use whatever they are accustomed to using for character creation.

  2. Honestly, if someone asks me now what old-school rpg means to me, I'm just aiming them at your last 4 posts. I will probably bookmark them and send players here the next time I start a new game.