This was a treat for all of us because our group disbanded in July and we haven’t had a chance to get together as a game group since (although we hang out frequently).
I had decided that I would run Tower of the Stargazer by James Raggi. It is an excellent module that puts a new spin on an old clichéd adventure of RPG history. I normally don’t run modules but due to time constraints and finals I just didn’t have time to create the dungeon dive I wanted. I have no regrets running this module and am really pleased with how everything turned out!
This was my NJ group’s first REAL adventure into pure Old School fun. When I started playing with them 6 years ago I was running pure 3.5 and then made the lateral jump to Pathfinder when it came out. As time went on my issues with 3.x grew and my gaming style started to change back to what I grew up with.
We started playing on Sunday and one of my players, a rogue, asked to roll to search for traps (which is more than fair to ask since she was used to Pathfinder). I told her no, because she didn’t need to roll.
I explained that in old school and what I was going for, was that you only rolled the dice when it was absolutely necessary. I describe the room/situation and they, as the players, tell me what they do and then the world reacts.
I gave an example by pointing out my living room, where we were playing, and said that when they entered they notice the small dinky Charlie Brown Christmas tree I have (only because my girlfriend makes me) is leaning sideways. As players, if this were a dungeon, they would need to tell me what they do/interact with in the room. If they told me they looked at the tree I would say they noticed that it was on a rod that went into the floor and it moved. They could choose to interact with it or not..
Here is a perfect example of Old School fiddling with the environment to create awesome situations:
After that we were off and played through the wonderfully weird and horrifying Tower of the Stargazer.
And something wonderful happened….
These players were engaged in a way they have NEVER been so before. Why? I think it is because I wouldn’t allow them to just roll for searching, or jumping, or etc (There was only 1 jump check by the rogue when there was a time constraint and an interesting effect for failure- she attempted to climb down an elevator shaft, quickly, that two players were using and failed, crashing on top of all of them causing them all to topple over the side and take some falling damage).
Everyone, even my normally quiet players, were active in describing and moving and exploring because they were excited to FIND what was in the room rather than just rolling a d20 to be told what they see.
Does this take more time? Absolutely, but it is WAY more fun!
This was an extremely wonderful eye opener for me being able to see a group I’ve played with for 6 years act completely different than the norm by a simple exclusion of a confining system brought by the new era of RPGs.
I am NOT knocking those who enjoy Pathfinder, 4e, etc. I have enjoyed 3.x for many years, although I’ve never enjoyed 4e, just not my cup of tea. However now seeing multiple times how players are elated/transported when the constraints of a system allow them to move, imagine, and act… I’m not sure I can go back…
I guess this brings up the whole “Do you think the RPG industry should stop because the pinnacle has passed and we just stay in the past?” argument.. No I don’t. Some truly awesome and innovate games have been brought about in recent years. Savage Worlds, FATE (especially the Dresden Files), Dread, etc.
I’m just speaking about what is making me and mine happy in gaming right now. It may work for others as well, which is another reason I’m sharing this. I am now going to go back through my Frankengame and see if there is more fat I can trim from the edges.
On the same note Hack and Slash has been doing a bunch of posts dealing with this exact same issue. Take a gander:
Why Roll for Skills (First post on subject)