The intent of this game system is to recapture the feel of old school role-playing using a lighter set of rules in synch with d20 Open License ‘Core’ rules. At the same time, I’m trying to replicate some of the ideas and innovations that have been introduced to the RPG world since the days of Red Box Basic D&D, Gamma World, Traveller, and Champions sets. Players should be able to understand the entire game in less than an hour, and sit down to create characters in 30 minutes or less.
- View the entire area you’ve mapped out as the battleground; don’t plan on taking on monsters in a single room. They may try to outflank you by running down corridors.
- Establish rendezvous points where the party can fall back to a secure defensive position.
- Scout ahead, and try to avoid wandering critters, which don’t carry much loot.
- You’re on a mission to find loot-rich areas. Trying to kill every critter you meet will weaken the party before you find the rich critters.
- Don’t assume you can defeat each and every critter you encounter. This a “balanced” world. Sometimes you eat the bear; sometimes, the bear eats you.
- Keep some sort of map, even if it’s just a flow chart. If you get lost, you can end up in real trouble – especially in a place where wandering critters are apt to show up.
- Ask lots of questions about what you see. Look up. Ask about unusual stonework or masonry. Test floors before stepping.
- Hire some cannon fodder. Don’t let the cannon fodder start to view you as a weak source of treasure.
- Check in with the grizzled one-armed guy in the bar before each foray; he may have suddenly remembered more details about an area.
Old-style games have a human-sized scale, not a super-powered scale. At first level, adventurers are barely more capable than a regular person. They live by their wits. Even as characters rise to the heights of power, they aren’t picking up super-abilities or high ability scores. Truly high-level characters have precious items accumulated over a career of adventuring; they usually have some measure of political power, at least a stronghold. They are deadly when facing normal opponents … but they aren’t invincible. Old school gaming is the fantasy of taking a guy without tremendous powers – a guy much like yourself but somewhat stronger, or with slight magic powers – and becoming a king or a feared sorcerer over time. It’s not about a guy who can, at the start of the game, take on ten club-wielding peasants at once. It’s got a real-world, gritty starting point. And your character isn’t personally ever going to become stronger than a dragon. At higher levels, he may be able to kill a dragon with his sword or with spells, but never by grabbing its throat and strangling it in a one-on-one test of strength.
To make a comic-book analogy, characters don’t become Superman; they become .
– Batman is the pinnacle. He’s a bit faster than normal, a bit stronger than normal, he’s got a lot of cash, a Bat Cave, a butler, a henchman (Robin) and cool gadgets. But he can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound. If you don’t get a feeling of achievement with Batman instead of Superman as the goal, the old school gaming style probably isn’t right for your vision of what makes good and exciting fantasy. Old school gaming is about the triumph of the little guy into an epic hero, not the development of an epic hero into a superhuman being. There’s nothing wrong with the latter, it’s just that old-style fantasy matches up with the former.
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