30 September 2013

My Experience with the OSR

I "grew up" (literally and metaphorically) playing Basic Edition with a little 2e mixed in and various rules-lite homebrews, ranging from completely rules-less shared storytelling type stuff to variations of D&D.

After a lapse of playing, I got a group together, and we got a Pathfinder game going. Well, long story short, it sucked. There were so many rules, character creation took sooooo long, and the zeitgeist of Pathfinder at the time was totally "dm-as-frustrated novelist" (meaning the DM writes a story and leads the players through it).

I felt like I had to prep so much stuff, boring stuff, statblocks, stories, npcs, blah blah blah. I worked so hard, and the game was no fun. Just little minis moving around a board.

If I'd wanted that, I could have played Monopoly.

Frustrated, I started looking around the Internet for what had gone wrong with my game, and stumbled upon the Old School Renaissance. Here were people that had "grown up" with the loosey-goosey old systems I had, playing dungeoncrawls and sandboxes. People who had kept the flame alive, while I had forgotten.

They reminded me that rules don't make it realistic or fun - the DM is better positioned to make common-sense rulings at the table than any game designer in their office could be.

They reminded me that prep doesn't have to be onerous - oldschool games rely heavily on improv, random tables, and because they have so few rules, statblocks are simple. A monster entry can be "Goblin, 1HD, AC5, they don't like tall people". That's enough to riff on or run a combat.

Most of all, they reminded me that the game is about the players and their choices. The DM is there to run the world, to make it interesting, and present interesting choices and opportunities.

Freed from rules, freed from onerous prep, freed from crafting a story, I was free to run the game the players wanted - whatever that might be. I was free to spend prep time on what matters - making a living world to present to the players.

I was free to fall in love with D&D again.

1 comment:

  1. That's very similar to how I got started, andmy feelings about Pathfinder.