Principles of Old School Gaming
I've been toying with the idea of writing my own little Player's Handbook for possible forthcoming old school games. I'm currently playing, and enjoying, a Castles & Crusades-campaign, with some modified rules, but real old school it definitely isn't. The simplified, combined with the improvisational and procedural, rules of old school is becoming more and more appealing to me, and I need to solidify and put to paper what I ideally would like to play. In the process I will pick and choose from my betters of course. Many blogs are inspiring, and also rulesets like Labyrinth Lord, The Black Hack and even maybe the slick skill-solution from Castles & Crusades will possibly be a part of my house rules.
However, before I begin the process of putting the rules together I need to define some of the principles of old school gaming.
What is the game about?
- The game is about player ingenuity, not character abilities or power level
- The game is about exploration and survival in a dangerous environment
- The game is about creative problem solving
- The game is about making choices, and facing consequences
- The game is about improvising with what is at hand, and uncovering what is hidden
How does it work?
- Character generation is quick and easy
- Solutions are seldom found on the character sheet
- The character's backstory is happening now
- The game takes place in a sandbox
- The game is open-ended
- The world is not static and it will evolve whether the characters get involved in current affairs or not
- The farther out, down or up the harder it will be
- The game is lethal and unbalanced.
- Be prepared. Be aware of portents. Never fight fair. Be smarter. Apply tactics. Run!
- The real killer is the dice
- The decision of the referee is final. Rulings, not rules.
- Player agency is the driving force
- Random tables will surprise both players and the referee through encounters, treasure and events
- Experience (XP) rewards from spending gold, and defeating, overcoming, befriending or bypassing opponents and obstacles
- Metagaming is allowed, as there is no strict line between player and character knowledge
- There will always be several solutions to a problem, many might be hidden, or even unknown to all