Friday, September 17, 2010

Old school D&D my way

In the past few months, ever since I started looking at earlier versions of Dungeons and Dragons, I've been immersed in reading the opinions, examples and modifications of dozens of bloggers, forum posters and retroclone authors who all seemed to be having a blast with what they were playing. Having never played an edition of D&D before 2nd, I took all of these examples to heart and tried to make my eventual campaign as much like the games I saw Jeff Rients, Zak S, James Maliszewski and Al Krombach playing.

It didn't go so well and I think I know why. There wasn't enough me in it.

I have still never run a dungeon crawl or a sandbox campaign. I know that for many of my fellow bloggers, these are the types of games that they grew up on and what they associate with D&D. A person who never stopped playing B/X or 1e or an old hand returning to a game that they loved would be able to wing a fun, old-school romp because they know how it goes. They'll remember what they loved about these games, be it the exploration aspect, the fact that death could be around every corner or the game worlds that they almost lived in. When I ended up running it, I tried to play a game that I had never played before like a person who's been playing it for years, if not decades. Needless to say, it didn't feel right.

So what do I like in my role-playing game experiences? I'll have to think on that. The games that I've run with the most success have mostly been westerns, cyberpunk and modern supernatural hunting. I'll have to think on it before deciding anything concrete.


  1. Your post got me thinking:

  2. No reason a western couldn't be run with an old D&D rules-set. I'd do it in a minute if Risus was off the table.

  3. Surprising or not, a Western S&W game was actually my first intention when I started this blog. Someday I may even finish it.

  4. For other genres I'd probably look for another rules light system rather than try to adapt D&D/d20.

    I think the key when using a retro-clone is realizing that not all the rules will work (for your group, or at all). These are clones of great but flawed games.

    It's primarily actual play and sensitivity to the quality of the experience that lets you know what to jettison as dragging on the game, and what rulings come up often enough that you should institutionalize them as house-rules.

    Needless to say, a group of cooperative and creative players is a must. Rules-heavy systems were designed for the "difficult people." To do improvised play well you need players who appreciate your game and authority and are able to deliver feedbakc in a constructive way.

    Hope this helps!

  5. Same thing happened to me. I started reading all the old-school blogs in the summer of 2008. I'm 28 and I didn't grow up with D&D, but I tried my hand at running a semi-old-school sandbox campaign all the same. It didn't turn out terribly, just ... different than the ones I'd read about.

    Nice to see someone in the same boat as me!

  6. The majority of my gaming was WoD. I had D&D and 1st edition books as a kid and LOVED reading them (let someone borrow and never got back)but have never ran an early edition game.

    Playing a PbP early edition game lately that has been fun.

    Also a free form no rules game. 4 of the 5 people have been playing games for 20 or so years a piece so we yell when things sound cranky, as the biggest rules conflict is over where in the area the place is we are talking about. It's based on local geography.

    Been thinking about running a mutant future game w/ futurama as the skeleton to run it on.

  7. Over the past year or so, Futurama has kind of served as the skeleton for a game setting I like to call Assholes In Space. I got inspired listening to the BBC production of Neuromancer and remembered how awesome I thought Maelcum and the Rastafarian Space Navy were.

    It's basically a combination of images: big-ass cargo ships drifting through space with reggae music in the background, gunfights in pristine corporate hallways between dirty mercenaries and alien bounty hunters soundtracked to Lightning Bolt's 'Captain Caveman.' Kind of like if Cowboy Bebop and The Fifth Element had a baby.