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OSE vs. 5E for newbs and kids

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27 Jan 2021 17:25 - 27 Jan 2021 17:44 #318420 by dragonstout

Michael Barnes wrote: Oh, on the morale/reaction tables...that is a great example of how gameplay tells the story. Somewhere along the way it turned into the DM tells the story, and that was a big mistake IMO. I think it’s really a good idea in DCC where you aren’t a DM, you are a -Judge-. You adjudicate the game’s events, and that guidance builds the story. It does not require memorizing the history of the Sword Coast and all the faction agendas to do this.


Yeah, I've noticed that in OSE for example, and I've seen this elsewhere in OSR stuff now, they're called the "referee". Whereas there are a lot of other RPGs I've seen that literally call them the "storyteller"!
Last edit: 27 Jan 2021 17:44 by dragonstout.

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28 Jan 2021 04:11 #318432 by Matt Thrower

dragonstout wrote: It's been *mind-blowing*. I feel like I just discovered the Rosetta Stone of fantasy gaming of ALL kinds. DungeonQuest makes SO much more sense now. Talisman makes more sense now. Breath of the Wild feels like the OSR philosophy as a video game


This made me laugh since I've always looked at it from the other direction: as in, how can people *not* get this? Never occurred to me that it was because the roots of RPGS had changed so much in the interim :D

Michael Barnes wrote: Oh, on the morale/reaction tables...that is a great example of how gameplay tells the story. Somewhere along the way it turned into the DM tells the story, and that was a big mistake IMO.


Reading this, it struck me that this kind of old-school sensibility is very much like emergent theme in a board game. I'm not sold on the idea of table generated anything in an RPG, not least because you end up drowning in tables very fast. But it is exactly how a dungeon-themed board game would play except there'd be cards or tiles or whatever and we'd all be crowing about how amazing it was.

Indeed a lot of adventure board games absolutely include the idea of running away and coming back again later, when you're stronger.

Michael Barnes wrote: But there is MUCH better available, including the first edition of the same game.


I'm currently running a 5e campaign for the first time in a very long time and having a lot of fun. I might have gone with OSE if I'd have known about it before I started, but I'm committed now and that's fine. I'm not really interested in debating the relative merits as we'll be here all day. But I will say one thing: 1st edition AD&D was a terrible mess. Looking back, almost every other edition of the game - including B/X - was an improvement on it.

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28 Jan 2021 05:27 #318433 by san il defanso

dragonstout wrote: Nate, just curious, what told you "Stout will like OSE better"?


I know you've really appreciated efficiency in design, emergent gameplay, and a less-is-more philosophy to design even with an expansive system. I think we've also had conversations about visual design in games as well, so I figured that OSE would flow way better for you even before you played it.

If we're all being realistic, pretty much EVERY edition of D&D is kind of a mess. Either it's some sprawling mass with way too many purchases necessary, or its written in such a way that it's almost impossible to parse out what it's actually trying to do. The lone exception to that is the B/X edition, and probably the Rules Cyclopedia. (I haven't played that but I've read it, and I know it's pretty much the same as B/X with some tweaks.) So OSE is already on fertile ground, and it doesn't have the weight of having to be all things to all people that 5e carries around with it. My impression is that within the OSR community, Old School Essentials has sort of ended the conversation about retroclones.

I will go to bat for the 5e campaign books because for me they do the work that I don't like doing. That is, they create a framework of settings, situations, NPCs, etc. Some OSR stuff I've read has a tendency to almost shame the DM who really isn't interested in crafting dungeons or wilderness areas. (That's one reason I'm thankful so much free OSR content is out there.) That's a heck of a lot of work in any edition of D&D, and it's not work I enjoy very much. So I'm thankful that WotC has those big sets because while I needed to hack it some to make it work, I can hack around a framework just fine. The big issue is that WotC pretty much ONLY makes the giant books. The exception is Yawning Portal, which I've used a whole lot and generally really enjoyed, aside from Tomb of Horrors, which is actually a pretty stupid module. They also have that Candlekeep Mysteries book coming out soon, which is filled with contained adventures.

Actually, I have physical copies of the OSE books waiting for me back in the US whenever we make it back later this year. I also ordered the Advanced Fantasy books with it, because I'm hoping it'll be a good way to run old AD&D modules like Against the Giants, or perhaps Tomb of the Lizard King. Barnes or Look, have either of you tried running those old adventures with the Advanced Fantasy supplements for OSE?
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28 Jan 2021 09:18 #318436 by Shellhead

Matt Thrower wrote: Reading this, it struck me that this kind of old-school sensibility is very much like emergent theme in a board game. I'm not sold on the idea of table generated anything in an RPG, not least because you end up drowning in tables very fast. But it is exactly how a dungeon-themed board game would play except there'd be cards or tiles or whatever and we'd all be crowing about how amazing it was.


Shadows of Malice.
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28 Jan 2021 09:40 #318441 by Michael Barnes
On tables...tables are one of the greatest tools you can have as an “improvisational” DM. The key is that tables are prompts, not absolute results. If I roll something and the over/under is something more interesting or if flipping the D100 result backwards matches something we’ve developed in the narrative, there you go. Again, it’s that judge/referee role...adjudicating and interpreting results rather than dictating them.

On campaigns- I’ve found it pretty easy to stitch together OSR books when needed without having to draw regional maps, come up with dungeons, etc...since I prefer low level play anyway, there usually isn’t a need for a persistent “world”. One of the many brilliant things about Mork Borg is that it’s setting is -terminal-. The world is ending, and it does so at a random rate. But once you hit 7 Miseries, everything you’ve done is destroyed. Characters and everything. It’s the game’s way of jettisoning the idea of the long-term campaign. Imagine pulling that on your group after a year of Tomb of Annihilation. The fatalism inspires a very different kind of RP and narrative.

On OSE for old modules- yes, I’ve used OSE/Advanced fantasy to run Keep on the Borderlands. Castle Amber, Lost City, and Saltmarsh. It works perfectly, it is a 1:1 conversion, I didn’t find anything problematic at all. Used traditional THACO and everything.

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28 Jan 2021 10:19 #318444 by Pugnax555

Matt Thrower wrote:

dragonstout wrote: It's been *mind-blowing*. I feel like I just discovered the Rosetta Stone of fantasy gaming of ALL kinds. DungeonQuest makes SO much more sense now. Talisman makes more sense now. Breath of the Wild feels like the OSR philosophy as a video game


This made me laugh since I've always looked at it from the other direction: as in, how can people *not* get this? Never occurred to me that it was because the roots of RPGS had changed so much in the interim :D


Matt, I'm right there with you on this. It's always amusing when people realize that so many of the foundations of RPGs, and CRPGs in particular, all more or less go right back to the first few years of DnD. Then again, I started with the magenta box in 81 when I was 7, so I guess kind of having a front row seat to the whole thing skews my perception of it a little.

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28 Jan 2021 10:59 #318450 by dysjunct
Oh man, lots of good stuff to respond to here.

Re: High Level Play. High level play used to be "settle down, build a castle (fighter) or a wizard's tower (wizard) or a temple (cleric) or start a thieves' guild (thief);" I think it definitely went off the rails when it started becoming more about planar adventures and endlessly leveling up. Even Conan became king of Aquilonia and retired. Y'all might be interested in Adventurer Conqueror King where this is explicitly designed in from the ground up. It's a B/X hack that is probably way crunchier than any of us (myself included) would like but it has a lot of interesting things going on. E.g. it uses the "max henchmen/followers" part of CHA to determine your ability to control land and vassals. Try to have more vassals swear fealty than your CHA allows, and their loyalty is suspect. It's also really economically rigorous, to a kind of insane level -- apparently the system for building castles and fortifications tracks to actual historical costs, to +/- 5% or so.

Re: Tournament play. Tournaments predated AD&D but it was created in response to them. Apparently Gygax and Blume were big fans of tournaments -- probably going back to their wargame/miniatures background -- even though they were not profitable and a very small percentage of the player base participated. The participants wanted more consistent rules and fewer DM judgement calls. It's always interesting to read Gygax's editorials and letters to APAs; there's definitely a split-personality type of thing going on between his opinions as a hobbyist ("D&D belongs to you! Do whatever you want") and his opinions as a businessman ("You must buy official TSR rulebooks and play by them, or you are not really playing D&D!"). 2e and later did not have anything to do with tournaments; by that time all tournament stuff had been spun off into the RPGA.

Re: D&D Adventure System, where the next room you go into is always the top tile on the stack. If you haven't read the famous article, this exists in RPGing as well: The Quantum Ogre . It's a symptom, IMO, of heavy systems where you can't run an encounter on the fly -- "oh, encounter table says 3d10 goblins, okay, here we go" vs "well, I created a balanced encounter of one controller plus 5 mooks plus 3 lieutenants, and I decided their tactics already, so..." If people like that kind of things, then whatever, it's their table, but it mostly ruins it for me. I like the feeling of a persistent world that exists independently of what my character does.
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28 Jan 2021 11:28 #318457 by dragonstout

Matt Thrower wrote:

dragonstout wrote: It's been *mind-blowing*. I feel like I just discovered the Rosetta Stone of fantasy gaming of ALL kinds. DungeonQuest makes SO much more sense now. Talisman makes more sense now. Breath of the Wild feels like the OSR philosophy as a video game


This made me laugh since I've always looked at it from the other direction: as in, how can people *not* get this? Never occurred to me that it was because the roots of RPGS had changed so much in the interim :D


I got into gaming in 1994, and dabbled in D&D for the year or two after that. By that point, D&D had completed its transformation in philosophy from old-school to new-school, though of course when Wizards bought it it also transformed yet again.

I'm looking forward to the OSE books from the Advanced Fantasy kickstarter, though of course I didn't know about any of this at the time so now I'm going to have to wait till AFTER the kickstarter backers get all theirs etc. But the other thing is "who cares, because I actually probably have enough right now to run this game till the end of 2021 already".
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28 Jan 2021 12:49 #318464 by dysjunct
A few more random thoughts.

Race-As-Class was something I always really liked. I think it fits perfectly with the earlier vision Gygax had, where nonhumans are more like mythical icons than freely-acting agents in the great cosmic war of Law vs. Chaos. Plus mixing and matching race/class is a step on the road to optimized character builds and minmaxing; that way lies madness.

Tables are a great tool, but like any tool at the table they must be carefully curated. It makes no sense to have a binder full of every cool table you ever felt like printing out, any more than you should bring every single cool idea for an encounter you've ever had. Have the tables that fit what your PCs are doing right now. If it's something ultimately inconsequential, then leave it online -- I can search and get ten random tavern names in less than 5 seconds; why waste valuable space printing it out?

As an alternative to tables, Frog God Games made some very cool decks of cards. There's one for random encounters and one for hirelings. (Plus other more standard ones, equipment, spells, etc.) On one hand it's a little silly to have cards that are difficult to modify or add to, but it's super fun to shuffle the hireling deck and deal off the top three cards when the PCs want to know who's looking for a job at this tavern.

For a game that combines 5e with OSR sensibilities, check out Five Torches Deep. It has the essential chassis of 5e, but pares back a ton of the cruft to end up with a very lean game that still has the good stuff of the modern era -- higher is always better, ascending AC, advantage/disadvantage. It keeps the fun stuff of ye olden days: spells might not always work, PCs are generally weaker, skills are almost nonexistent. It's mostly compatible with 5e and B/X without modification. There's supplements for fiefdom management (level up your little village between adventures), dueling, and a few others. It also has a really fun random dungeon generator where you mix up a Rubik's Cube and then roll it like a d6. A white square is free movement (a clearing, open passage/tunnel, etc.), green is a place with treasure, yellow is dangerous due to traps or terrain, etc.
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28 Jan 2021 13:38 #318470 by Michael Barnes
All great points Dysjunct. I think it’s funny that Gygax was worried about the game devolving into a frenzy of zany spell casting weirdos...

I want to try 5 Torches Deep, is it 100% compatible with 5e? I really want to run Neverland but it would require some work in OSE or Knave.

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28 Jan 2021 14:14 #318474 by Jexik
Replied by Jexik on topic OSE vs. 5E for newbs and kids
I also came into D&D for the first time with AD&D 2e (at around age 8), so 3rd and later 5th edition felt like breaths of fresh air.

There was also that Sega Genesis game that seemed to use a classic rules chassis - Warriors of the Eternal Sun. That game was brutal, and my friends used to spend actual hours re-rolling the stats of their characters at the start until they got like 4 18s.

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28 Jan 2021 14:30 #318479 by dysjunct

Michael Barnes wrote: I want to try 5 Torches Deep, is it 100% compatible with 5e? I really want to run Neverland but it would require some work in OSE or Knave.


Not 100%, no. It is largely compatible in terms of math. So HP, AC, saves, damage, etc. can be used as-is. It doesn't have the expansive spells, powers, feats, and classes that 5e does. There's no equivalent of e.g. a 5th level eldritch fighter/3rd level shadowpact rogue (or whatever nonsense kewl words they are sticking together now). So if a creature has feats, spells, classes, etc. you'll have to trim those out, find equivalents, or wing it.

I'd say it mostly depends on the adventure, and is probably a lot less work than converting a 5e adventure to Knave or B/X.

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28 Jan 2021 14:51 #318483 by Michael Barnes
I just bought it and flipped through it- it looks good, it definitely reads like a a compromise between 5e and B/X...not unlike DCC, really but definitely much more streamlined. The missing 5e feats, subclasses, etc...meh anyway!

I might try running Tomb of Black Sand with this, it’s written for 5e.

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28 Jan 2021 16:07 #318491 by Pugnax555

Michael Barnes wrote: I really want to run Neverland but it would require some work in OSE or Knave.

Michael, have you taken a look at Neverland? Despite the "5e Compatible" stamp on the cover, it really seems to hew closer to BX/OSR than anything. Blurry, low res picture from the publisher's page, but check out the stat blocks:

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28 Jan 2021 17:45 #318503 by Michael Barnes
I wrote a little about it I my GOTY article. It’s a -stunning- book. But it is written with 5e in mind. I got into a conversation about that with the author on Twitter, he’s a good dude...5e is strictly a marketing/accessibility matter. Which is odd to me because this kind of thing is squarely in the OSR market, and in fact his chief influence was Hot Springs Island.

I am really liking the look of 5TD...I think the way it handles supplies is really smart, it’s an abstraction but it captures the essential quality of having limited torches, food, arrows, etc. I also like that it gives just a little more flavor to the classes along the leveling path, but not so much as 5e. I think this would be a great system to introduce an OSR style to 5E players or to give OSR players something with more modern elements. I don’t know if I would run this over OSE for B/X modules, but I can definitely see using this to run 5e material including the Yawning Portal and Saltmarsh updates.

Exalted Funeral put up Xanadu yesterday, a new 2nd level OSE-written adventure with computer game graphics. It looks awesome. BBG is...the Tooth Fairy.
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