The state of Post-OSR content

The1True

My my my, we just loooove to hear ourselves don't we?
Well, in that case, here's the only nugget worth saving:

I wish Gus L. would come back to the board.
seriously. Dungeon of Signs was a beautiful place.

also, despite his Dwimmermount fuckery, I miss Grognardia. It was like fireside D&D ramblings with grampa.
 

The1True

My my my, we just loooove to hear ourselves don't we?
Primarily everyone should try making their adventures the best they can be according to what they consider good
That is true and also kind of beautiful, but still anyone secretly dreaming of sending their baby out to a wider audience and maybe even making back their costs has to be thinking about that audience, right? I mean first of all if your adventure is super-niche no one at all will ever see it and that's just sad, I mean when you set out to distribute this thing, it's because you wanted to share it with someone outside your little gaming group echo cave, right? And if you're actually looking to make back costs (or are delusional enough to be aiming for a bit of profit) you have to be thinking about what rules set your wider audience is playing. Although, I'm starting to think it's more a matter of kickass artwork, layout & design and deliberate print-run scarcity (and maybe a bit of blogosphere cult of personality)...shit I'm going way off topic again, sorry everybody.
 

DangerousPuhson

So ... slow work day? Every day?
D'Puhson seems to be recovering from an abusive internet relationship with OSR grognards. As a result, I sense he has an axe to grind against OSR Zealots.
I don't have an axe to grind against OSR zealots; I have an axe to grind with elitists. Sometimes they go hand-in-hand. There's a lot of admirable work that came out of the OSR, but it's time has passed. The things you (Squeen) love about the OSR; the novelty, the collaboration, the free-form nature... it's all non-contingent on being labeled. What you love about the OSR is just basic, common sense creative practice. My problem is with people who have labeled it as such, and then gatekeep the fuck out of it because they've slapped a label on it and therefore must hold simple collaborative process accountable to some kind of ethereal "standards" that are expected to live up to definitions and standards of their own designs.

The OSR is akin to religion - having faith in itself is not a bad thing, but when you get a bunch of people with faith together and they start deciding rules and excluding people and declaring other people bad.... well, that's problematic. That's my axe to grind against the OSR. I guess you could call those people "zealots", but I just call them "douchebags hiding douchebaggery under the umbrella of OSR".

3e seems like a role reversal with a very different target audience. Ignoring the bizarre twist D&D took after the success of Ravenloft---becoming a weird story-telling game for dull, passive players---it seems the influence D&D had on early video games had swung full-circle to poke it in the eye. Video combat had seeped in to 3rd-edition design. Characters were cyber-punked, super-humans---powering-up and smashing their way through staged combat scenes. Buying magic items? Challenge levels? Healing surges? Ugh! Too garish video-gamey for me. Clearly the majority also thought so too, as the reset button was pressed two (and a half) more times in rapid succession.
Little or no expertise is right - you've mistaken 3e for 4e. Buying magic items has existed since Gary Gygax told his first player "yeah, you can buy a healing potion for 50gp" - not 3e exclusive. By "challenge levels" I assume you mean "challenge ratings", though I can't see why you have a problem with what is essentially a meta-tag to make encounters balanced; handy for adventure design, but it's not like the game revolves around them. Healing surges are not in 3e.

I still have yet to see an actual definition from anyone about what "old school feel" actually is... especially how it is somehow reflected by the mechanics of the game, rather than the creative atmosphere.
 

squeen

8, 8, I forget what is for
That is true and also kind of beautiful, but still anyone secretly dreaming of sending their baby out to a wider audience and maybe even making back their costs has to be thinking about that audience, right? I mean first of all if your adventure is super-niche no one at all will ever see it and that's just sad, I mean when you set out to distribute this thing, it's because you wanted to share it with someone outside your little gaming group echo cave, right? And if you're actually looking to make back costs (or are delusional enough to be aiming for a bit of profit) you have to be thinking about what rules set your wider audience is playing.
This evokes two disconnected thoughts in my mind:

1) Huso's "A Fabled City of Brass" --- a professional and beautiful labor of love written unapologetically for 1e (with psionics!) with maybe no target audience. (Well,, I bought it, but I'm a weirdo.)

2) Gift Economy --- trying to make money in this niche market is probably pointless unless you are a big name. It's also probably counter-productive and might even be considered crass in an (admittedly elitist) gift-economy. Credentials/status is earned through (free) contributions to the hobby (like what Bryce is doing). Just a thought.
 
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Palindromedary

*eyeroll*
I think you're wrong when you say that the old-school feel can't be replicated with modern rules - this may have to do with a fairly nebulous definition of what exactly "old school feel" is. We probably both believe in something different.

...

But aside from that, I don't know why you'd even fuss with ripping functional stuff out of the game... to capture this elusive "old school feel"? Again, you probably need to clarify what you mean by this, because I'd argue that by your definition, you're seemingly creating a game that's needlessly arduous, different by way of complexity while simultaneously being somehow more primitive.
Fair enough: I just took it for granted that we're all on the same page there. I consider the old-school experience reasonably straightforward:

1) High(er) lethality. Not to be confused with adversarial GMing, old-school games are just more lethal. You have fewer HP, and the lack of Challenge Ratings and other hardwired balancing mechanisms means that fights will more often be comparatively dangerous. This isn't more difficult for difficulty's sake, but leads to a different set of expectations of advancement and general playstyle. Neither is better (your "needless" is my "desired"), but they are noticeably different.

2) Resource management. As Beoric observed, all games are resource management games to some degree. But in old-school play, there are resources that tend to be overlooked in later editions. For example, light is fundamental to an old-school game, but often handwaved in later editions--a vestigial, grudging acknowledgement of realism that you get rid of with cantrips and magic items you can buy at any corner store. Another key element is time. Time is the greatest resource, something that exists in all games but is usually a background thing unless the plot says otherwise. In an old-school game it's hardwired into the mechanics: the 10-minute turn, and what it means for searches, wandering monsters, torches / lamps burning out, etc. Similarly, food and water are not taken for granted. Ammo isn't handwaved. Encumbrance matters. Actual disease happens. Travel isn't the thing you do to get to the game, but often the actual game itself.

3) Gold for XP. Monsters are a resource management mechanic, not the major XP source (combat is generally bad). Gold is your driving force, the thing the entire game is centred around.

4) Player description instead of mechanical elements when it comes to most investigation and social interaction (reaction checks and thief / elf search roll exceptions noted).

5) Player agency. A comparative lack of plot railroads, save-the-village / save-the-city / save-the-kingdom / save-the-world heroic quest progression, unkillable NPCs, BBEGs, and other modern story elements. Players largely do what they want, and the story unfolds as they do so, rather than the story unfolds and players comport their actions to it.

I've left the things out that I consider fillips. For example, descending vs. ascending armour class is completely irrelevant. Rules-light is very important to me (if I want complexity I'll play HERO and do it right rather than trying to wade through hundreds of pages of exception-based design), but a rigid enforcement of that would rule out 1st ed and OSR games such as AS&SH, which would be idiotic. Skills and feats can be bad (and usually are), but aren't inherently bad. I don't think perception mechanics are inherently bad like many do, only player-facing perception. And so on.

I think you've built up something of a fallacy here. Your conclusion that mechanics determine player actions based on the rules presented is off base. Anybody who has ever had to homebrew a rule, or buy a splatbook with situation-specific rules, or downloaded an addendum to already published rules will tell you that your players are going to do literally anything, and there needs to be a ruling on it. They don't base their options on what rules are extant. It's completely counter-intuitive to the whole reason pen and paper RPGs even exist (because they're literally a game where you can do whatever you want). And when you're talking a game with unlimited choices requiring potentially unlimited rulings, the best system is the one that allows for easy, sensible resolution (for which I laud the d20 system for solving almost entirely).
The things I listed in my earlier responses to you and Beoric mostly focus on the mechanical weakening of the elements I've detailed above. In my first post I said that old-school play is the combination of both style and substance, so I'm not ignoring style, DM preference, etc. But in my previous post I mention that form follows function, and I strongly believe that to be true. Take 2nd edition, for example. On the surface it looks like 1st ed with some cosmetic changes (different prose, a few classes and races changed, but the same underlying rules engine). But the style had fundamentally changed at TSR by then (reflected in the modules they by then had largely switched to making) and the rules changed to match. When you change the XP rules primarily from gold for XP to XP solely from monster killing and story incentives, you can't more strongly signal to the reader (and, more importantly, the DM designing their adventures) that shift: one small rule, one massive difference in the entire foundation of how the entire ruleset works towards, and in turn how the players are going to approach adventures generated for it. Players of 2nd ed are going to want to kill things first and foremost. Or take exploration. 2nd ed dungeon exploration is literally 30 times faster, while the suggested wandering monster rate is about 2/3rds less. Same base rules, just some tiny number tweaks and the game plays completely differently.

You asked why I would "fuss with ripping functional stuff out of the game". Function alone is no virtue. Since rules have gameplay results, if they do bad things (where bad is "not what I want"), they need to go. So when I see rules that make light trivial, that grant super-rapid healing and otherwise make it very hard for players to die or feel the threat of death (matching a meta / style that doesn't expect player death as a rule), that structure the entire game around a balanced series of fight encounters expressly designed to deplete X% of player resources per battle, that have no mechanics for monsters to be non-hostile or not fight to the death, that have monetary wealth in the game as a largely vestigal organ instead of the fundamental driver of player advancement and motivation, that think it fine to have a class that eliminates most of the challenges of overland travel at the start of the game, that adds a player-facing universal search mechanic and an elaborate set of social and investigative skills that eliminate the need to describe what you're doing: I can say all that results in a game experience I would solidly classify as "not old-school". I don't have to do the Potter Stewart "I know it when I see it" thing: I can spell it out. I would also note that I don't believe any of this makes 5th better or worse as a game in general.

And to that I ask "why do you think it's easier to Frankenstein together some new mechanics in order to capture a vague 'old-school feel', than it would be just to make some slight tweaks to an existing, robust, fully-realised system? Is the entrenchment of written materials causing some roadblock for reaching this 'feel', and if so, why are you having such trouble correcting it?"
Red herring on my part, unfortunately. Most people get by with OD&D, 1st edition, B/X, or some OSR variant of the above just fine, and I know I could run an old-school game with any of those rulesets. However, I like to write (I do freelance game work, and some fiction writing): I find it relaxing and a fun challenge to make my own rulesets and whatnot, so I made an old-school one to carve out the very tiny niche that I didn't think had been fully exploited yet and to lay it all out the way I preferred. It was an indulgence, not a necessity.

But more importantly, you claim the impossibility of an old-school feel using 5e rules. THAT is my main problem with your statements. It's a blatant falsehood, because there are many people who can and do accomplish it.

I don't want to start a flame war or anything, but as I stated in my original post, the one you called me out for: "frankly anyone who believes that the concepts of OSR can't translate over to 5th edition D&D are just unimaginative." I still stand by that statement.
To some degree it's a moving target, in that one person's hardcore old-school grogfest is another's freeform hippy bullshit ("Let's play an old-school game." "Yay!" "I'm using Dungeon World." "Eh....."). I'd probably be unhappy at your table, and you at mine, skill as a GM entirely aside. But I'd like to think I've put a little more flesh on that skeleton now. Yes, you can handwave / optional rule / remove a lot of the elements I listed, and some of the things I've listed aren't technically 100% true (for example, social skills don't actually eliminate the ability to describe actions, but I think it's naive to assume that they don't tend to do so by virtue of human laziness; there's a reason "I make a perception check" has 11,000 results on Google). But I'd ask again, why bother? If you so solidly have in your head the experience I've tried to detail above, why would you seek to take a game and make it what it didn't intend to be when you can just grab a game off the shelf that actually does those things inherently, and save yourself the time and effort?
 
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Malrex

So ... slow work day? Every day?
Once you look at 5e through an old-school lens, a lot of things will be "wrong" or "off", because the design intents are different. Looking at the 5e adventures Bryce is reviewing (and almost uniformly trashing), I would also say that these games cater to entirely different tastes and sensibilities than old-schoolers share.

These differences would be hard to reconcile. Sure, they may not matter if your only interest in old-school rulesets lies in "free, simple, house rule-friendly D&D". If you actually care for old-school design principles, though, they will matter.
I bought the 5e core books...DMG, Players Handbook, and the Monster book. I started reading the players book...and had to put it down when I reached the Cleric. Everything was ok up to that point, it felt familiar, but something just didn't click. It's like I have an inability to decipher different rules past 2e. There was some stuff I liked the sound of, but...those 3 books are in my garage, pretty much forgotten. I purchased them because I considered writing 5e stuff as our group was debating on switching to 5e...we ended up sticking with our 1e/2e with a smattering of 3e skills thrown in for good measure.

Since I just couldn't bring myself to go through the effort of learning 5e by myself, I reached out to people who preferred 5e. 6 people....I sent them my OSR stuff hoping they could convert it to 5e. They all said it was impossible. I told them to delete the monsters, delete the treasure...just use the 'adventure bones' of it....nope! They all quit, except for 1 who managed to help us with a short encounter/adventure. 5 quitters!!! Maybe they were lazy?? It's possible, but it really made me scratch my head. So I think Melan is on to something with his comments above about design. I think the same might be true for people looking at OSR through a 5e lens.

Anyways...the 5e encounter allowed me to perform my 'experiment'. The experiment is a little messed up, since the OSR version was on Dragonsfoot for free for a month or so and got 200 downloads or so before we yanked it and threw it up on Drivethru for $1.50. It's also not a great experiment because I don't think it gets as much exposure since its not on DMsGuild. But Drivethru has some neat little tools to see 'traffic' or how many times people clicked on a title to check it out (not purchase).

OSR version: 3,425 visits
5e Version: 3,175 visits

Surprisingly, both have equal sells and the OSR version has 2 more in people's wishlist than 5e. So even though it wasn't the best experiment, it suggests to me that OSR is still going strong.

"That is true and also kind of beautiful, but still anyone secretly dreaming of sending their baby out to a wider audience and maybe even making back their costs has to be thinking about that audience, right? I mean first of all if your adventure is super-niche no one at all will ever see it and that's just sad, I mean when you set out to distribute this thing, it's because you wanted to share it with someone outside your little gaming group echo cave, right? And if you're actually looking to make back costs (or are delusional enough to be aiming for a bit of profit) you have to be thinking about what rules set your wider audience is playing."--The1True

And that's why I wanted to do the experiment and continue to experiment. "Thinking about the audience". I've written stuff for For Gold & Glory, a 2e retroclone, because that was closest to what my home group plays. We play 2e, but love the 1e dungeons--sandbox style not storyline. But hardly anyone plays For Gold & Glory--although that's the majority of our stuff...so I've written for Labyrinth Lord on my own to compare 'clicks' and purchases. Soon I'll be going for a Kickstarter for a OSRIC supermodule and see what happens. The cool thing is that OSRIC, LL, FG&G--its all easy because it has the same design intents. 5e is a completely different animal--from a design perspective, and I realize I'm making a ignorant comment on that since I haven't read or understood all of 5e yet...but just from my experience with these 6 people and all pretty much failing, it leads me to believe that the design intents are different. As DPuhson argues though--I could see 5e being played in a OSR way, but designing an adventure is different--in my opinion. Perhaps you can relay a OSR vibe while playing, but that vibe is not translated well when designing.

Same with Bryce's 5e reviews. He may bash them, but then on Drivethru, the same adventure is getting high praise, 5/5 stars all day long. So although I think OSR is still doing alright, I do think its slowly dying (because the players are old and starting to die) as other generations are looking for something different in their roleplaying games.
 

squeen

8, 8, I forget what is for
The OSR is akin to religion - having faith in itself is not a bad thing, but when you get a bunch of people with faith together and they start deciding rules and excluding people and declaring other people bad.... well, that's problematic. That's my axe to grind against the OSR. I guess you could call those people "zealots", but I just call them "douchebags hiding douchebaggery under the umbrella of OSR".
Agreed. That's what I'd call a zealot. Partly because I'm pretty sure "douchebaggery" is not a real word.
(My apologies to zealots of other types who are somehow different from this stereotype and I accidentally offended by my pejorative label).
Also, I still think you are still holding quite a large axe. (Sorry! Don't hurt me!)

Little or no expertise is right - you've mistaken 3e for 4e....
Guilty as charged. Those editions are all greek to me.
My point was only that everything sounds very video-gamey.

Let me just add that I hear your point that game mechanics are less important than how the DM runs it.

BUT...You have to consider Melan's (implied) point. There is a possibility that the mechanics skew the play in one direction or another.

Why is it then that earlier editions seemed to mostly result in one play-style and later editions another? This is not a rhetorical question---it's the essential question. Could it really just be coincidence? What are those elements that caused disconnected and scattered groups of individuals to have roughly similar (and compelling) experiences? That's what this board is all about---good adventure design. What the hell is it? (Followed immediately by, I'm sure, "How can we bottle and sell it?" ;P)


To muddy the waters further (and slyly talk more about myself...tee hee...didn't see that coming, did ya?): I played in two distinct groups as a young player. One became a failed experiment in Monty Hall wish-fulfillment, and the other a life-changing challenge. They both were in the same era. Nominally the rule-set was the same. One worked and one didn't. One I was determined to replicate, the other a pitfall to be avoided. Why?

When I restarted 30 years later, the primary DM lessons I'd learned and set out to emulate were:
  1. Don't let the rules be a straight-jack---invent!
  2. Be tough but fair on the players---decisions should have consequences. Sucess should be hard and mixed with failure. DM should appear to be rooting for the monsters (but not really). The players have to be afraid of somethings.
  3. The world should be mysterious, magical, and strange (opacity: don't pull back the curtain in terms of mechanics too often---book items are boring if they have the book too)
  4. Don't put limits on player actions (again: hide the mechanics because that trivializes and categorizes actions)
  5. Let the world be the straight-man and laugh your ass off at the player's antics (fill it with ridiculous, over-the-top but straight-faced NPCs and all sorts of zany devices to cause mayhem)
  6. The DM has to work doubly hard, be more creative than the players, and an incorruptible authority figure that everyone rails against and complains about


Now that's all play-style. It has nothing to do with product.

So, from Bryce-landia I'll attempt to echo his good tenants for the written page that I've absorbed:
  1. Be terse --- evoke a mood with as few cues as possible. Show don't tell.
  2. Visually organize things on the page for quick DM reference (bullets, dense info content, no one likes flipping pages)
  3. Focus on what the player sees and can touch (interactivity!) --- evoke/hint at back-story for flavor but don't blather on about it
  4. Make a good map and use it
  5. Summary tables help --- really.
  6. (do something new --- everyone is sick of kobold lairs)

An finally, the important take-aways I've absorbed from discussions in this forum:
  1. Magic-users! Not wizards damn it!
  2. the OSR is "soooo" over, dude (Just kidding. Not!)
  3. nobody gives a crap about counting torches if you're having fun! (But you'd better count them just to be sure.)
  4. 3e was fine....really. No, really! You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. IT. WAS. FINE. See, I said that without smiling.
 
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squeen

8, 8, I forget what is for
OK. How about this: D&D as a Zen koan.

"Whatever you define as D&D is not the true D&D."
 
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DangerousPuhson

So ... slow work day? Every day?
If there's one glaring issue I can spot in these comments so far, it's this: there's a staggering lack of knowledge about the 5e system on here.

I get it... you saw 3e's number-crunching bonuses, and 4e's feats-turned-into-superpowers and thought "holy shit D&D has gotten gamey, I just want my simple rolls and easy rules back" - and coincidentally, OSR was born during the 3/4 era, and so you got it. System worked. You were playing the game as you wanted it, free from stuff like Feats and Cross-Class Proficiency and Surges. You didn't bother learning a new system and buying new books.

What you don't seem to have noticed is that WotC dialed that shit WAY back. Feats? Listed under "optional rules" and generally dissuaded. Proficiencies? You get a couple at character creation and that's it. Modifiers? We have Advantage/Disadvantage now; it's binary and stupid easy.

The classic example is using skills to bypass obstacles - a big complaint listed even in the Old-School Primer, held up as the de facto problem with new vs. old D&D:

New D&D
DM: "There's a pit trap"
Player: "I roll a check to pass it."

Old D&D
DM: "There's a pit trap"
Player: "I consider my options carefully, then decide an option. NOW I roll a check to pass it"

Ok, my version is abridged, but that's pretty much the gist of the argument, which is hilariously subjective because there are many DMs who could easily convert the first scenario to the second one without a rule overhaul. Maybe in 3e you could say "I jump over it, but also add +3 because of my Dex, + 6 because of my Acrobatics skill, +3 because of my Long-Jumper Feat, double my distance because I'm casting the Jump spell, etc.", but 5e doesn't have all that shit. It's as simple as you need it to be.

Here's a scenario - try to guess what version of the game it's using:

DM: Here's the situation. What do you want to do?
Player: After considering the options, I want to do this thing.
DM: OK, how do you want to go about doing this thing?
Player: I want to do it specifically like this.
DM: Nice creative thinking! Roll this check, add this bonus for your creativity.
Player: I rolled this number. I added this one other number to it for this total.
DM: Here is the outcome.

If you said "that could be any system": congrats, you now understand why I believe retro-clones to be largely irrelevant in a world where 5e exists!
 
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squeen

8, 8, I forget what is for
If you said "that could be any system": congrats, you now understand why I believe retro-clones to be largely irrelevant in a world where 5e exists!
I'm posting a bit too much, and I'll shut up for a bit now, but I do want to make my position clear:

I think 5e was the mainstream's reaction to the vitality of the OSR. It is certainly an attempt to recapture some of D&D's essence that was lost. I applaud that, and think it (along with the internet) must have succeeded---at least in-part---because of the hobby's resurgence with a new generation. Beyond that I don't know enough about 5e to say much more (except, oooh...look at the pretty pictures!).

I will however end on this:

Retro-clone are most definitely not irrelevant because they are open. The world owns them and no one can control them or take them away---and well...that makes all the difference.

Thank you Matt Finch (and others).
 
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DangerousPuhson

So ... slow work day? Every day?
Retro-clone are most definitely not irrelevant because they are open. The world owns them and no one can control them or take them away---and well...that makes all the difference.

Don't use mind flayers or githyanki or Forgotten Realms and you're golden.
 

Yora

Should be playing D&D instead
@Yora: Thank you for kicking this heated topic off.
It was getting kinda quiet 'round here.
Cheers.
Not what I was asking for, but that's fine. ;)

Though without having read most of the thread, I get the impression that this is mostly about retreading the same discussion about what is OSR as over the past 10 years, which made people lose interest about OSR as a thing and just do their thing in quiet.
 

The1True

My my my, we just loooove to hear ourselves don't we?
I consider the old-school experience reasonably straightforward:
I consider the old-school experience to be every. single. time. I open up my raggedy old copy of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.
Not my most played module, but definitely my most read one. I've run it in three different rules editions. That perfect feeling of raw weirdness, novelty, deadly challenge, lavish artwork and early 80's funkiness never goes away. It is the high I will always be chasing. It's not a rules system or a play style, it's that damn book. It's beautiful.
 

The1True

My my my, we just loooove to hear ourselves don't we?
Not what I was asking for, but that's fine. ;)

Though without having read most of the thread, I get the impression that this is mostly about retreading the same discussion about what is OSR as over the past 10 years, which made people lose interest about OSR as a thing and just do their thing in quiet.
I feel like by retreading all these old arguments we're maybe establishing the terms of the discussion so we can actually answer the initial question (in a roundabout way🙃).
Definitely another thought provoking thread even if it does end up running right off the rails, lol. Thanks!
 

Melan

*eyeroll*
Melan said:
These differences would be hard to reconcile. Sure, they may not matter if your only interest in old-school rulesets lies in "free, simple, house rule-friendly D&D". If you actually care for old-school design principles, though, they will matter.
Would you mind unpacking this statement for us?
I thought this was fairly uncontroversial. Old-school systems are lightweight enough and adaptable enough to serve as general purpose fantasy systems, and are often used as such. You have a simple set of character generation rules and some kind of task resolution, and maybe some spells and equipment list, and you can play "anything". There are also some general lessons in old-school gaming which can, and in fact should be generalised - player agency, open-ended problem-solving, player skill, using random generations as inspiration, sandbox play, etc. - these are all worth at least considering.

However, old-school D&D also has a core identity and tradition which has an appeal of its own, and it is worth preserving as a coherent entity even if it is a bit elitist to do so. It is different and it is fun. It does something other games either don't attempt at all, or attempt but only do so half-heartedly (because rules, procedures, and other assumptions of play actually do matter). For instance, adventure logistics is a core feature of even basic D&D, while this is what 5e has to say about it:
Your carrying capacity is your Strength score multiplied by 15. This is the weight (in pounds) that you can carry, which is high enough that most characters don't usually have to worry about it.
I am not a stickler for encumbrance, but this here is essentially the polar opposite of old-school D&D. And it is just one thing among many. The emphasis of slow attrition instead of a few set-piece battles is another area where there are major differences between old and modern D&D, and it has fairly important consequences for adventure design, the size and scope of dungeons, and so on. The source of advancement (gp --> XP) and its pace (how much play it takes to gain levels) will have similar effects, but on the campaign level. This is still on the level of the rules, and doesn't cover game procedures like AD&D's (and even LBB OD&D's) robust wilderness encounter system creating an implied setting of sorts, or the way random encounter checks are used in a systematic way to keep a party moving in a dungeon.

Naturally, old-school gaming is a set of rules, assumptions and aesthetics. You can replace, house rule or ignore a lot of them and retain something reasonably close in spirit (these are fairly modular games after all). But when it comes to the whole - all those small changes add up.
 

Beoric

8, 8, I forget what is for
This post got pretty long, so TL;DR: Don’t confuse the crappy design of adventure writers during the tenure of any edition with the actual capabilities of the edition. Also, many of my responses are just a reference back to my earlier post, which already discussed much of this.

Looking at the 5e adventures Bryce is reviewing (and almost uniformly trashing), I would also say that these games cater to entirely different tastes and sensibilities than old-schoolers share.
Don’t mistake how the official designers write and present modules with how the mechanics actually work. For pretty much the entire run of 4e, WotC was publishing linear combat porn. It is also pretty clear that for most of the run, until long after most people had given up on it, they had little understanding of their own system.

Despite the change in mechanics, standard 4e module design was pretty much identical to 3e modules design, with different fonts and colours. The system did not make them design crappy modules, they wanted to design modules that way.

And to underscore this point I would like to point out that they started publishing the Dragonlance modules using the 1e ruleset before the Unearthed Arcana was published. Just because the modules cater to a playstyle doesn't mean the mechanics require it.

I consider the old-school experience reasonably straightforward:

1) High(er) lethality. Not to be confused with adversarial GMing, old-school games are just more lethal.
Possibly true of 0e and B/X, but AD&D isn’t particularly lethal. I actually find 4e to be more dangerous than AD&D, except in 4e published adventures, which are set on easy level. But that is again an adventure design issue, not a system issue.

2) Resource management. As Beoric observed, all games are resource management games to some degree. But in old-school play, there are resources that tend to be overlooked in later editions. For example, light is fundamental to an old-school game, but often handwaved in later editions--a vestigial, grudging acknowledgement of realism that you get rid of with cantrips and magic items you can buy at any corner store. Another key element is time. Time is the greatest resource, something that exists in all games but is usually a background thing unless the plot says otherwise. In an old-school game it's hardwired into the mechanics: the 10-minute turn, and what it means for searches, wandering monsters, torches / lamps burning out, etc. Similarly, food and water are not taken for granted. Ammo isn't handwaved. Encumbrance matters. Actual disease happens. Travel isn't the thing you do to get to the game, but often the actual game itself.
None of those are system issues, they are all adventure design issues. Again, I suggest you go back to the post where I discuss this. Light in 4e is more of a problem than it is in other systems. There are baked in timelines for the expiry of various resources, like light, potions, and spells. The fact that adventures don’t use them doesn’t mean they are not there. Ammo comes in discrete units. There are express, and relatively simple, rules for running out of water, food or air. There are rules for carrying capacity (although capacity is about 50% more than it should be - EDIT but as it turns out, encumbrance values are also waaay too high), and most items have an encumbrance value (they got lazy and didn’t bother for most of the miscellaneous magic). Diseases present, many are lethal, and the mechanic is much easier to use than AD&D. Published adventures usually treat travel as a skill challenge, but there is no rule requiring it. (I have come to believe WotC required at least one skill challenge per adventure, even in Dungeon Magazine, whether it fit the adventure or not.)

3) Gold for XP. Monsters are a resource management mechanic, not the major XP source (combat is generally bad). Gold is your driving force, the thing the entire game is centred around.
As I said before, this is the only mechanic that requires a houserule in 4e.

4) Player description instead of mechanical elements when it comes to most investigation and social interaction (reaction checks and thief / elf search roll exceptions noted).
This is again an issue of adventure design, not of mechanics. When an adventure tells the DM that an NPC will provide information if the PC makes a DC 15 Diplomacy check, expect players to ask to roll Diplomacy checks. If the adventure instead told the DM that the NPC was a sucker for a pretty face, or had a weakness for chocolate, players will learn to actually talk to NPCs.

5) Player agency. A comparative lack of plot railroads, save-the-village / save-the-city / save-the-kingdom / save-the-world heroic quest progression, unkillable NPCs, BBEGs, and other modern story elements. Players largely do what they want, and the story unfolds as they do so, rather than the story unfolds and players comport their actions to it.
Again, adventure design, not mechanics.

Or take exploration. 2nd ed dungeon exploration is literally 30 times faster, while the suggested wandering monster rate is about 2/3rds less.
I don’t remember the exploration rules for 2e. However, I’ve scoured the AD&D DMG for guidelines regarding the frequency of wandering monster checks in dungeons, and the die to be rolled for the check, and never found anything (overland adventures do have it listed though). Even the sample dungeon doesn’t mention it. DMs learned the procedure from published adventures and earlier rulesets - which is exactly what I did with 4e.

I do know that exploration goes a whole lot faster if the PCs don’t map (unnecessary with a linear dungeon), check for secret doors, or probe ahead with a 10’ pole. This is readily fixed if the dungeons are large and nonlinear and pit traps are prevalent. Again, an adventure design issue.
 
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Palindromedary

*eyeroll*
TL;DR: Don’t confuse the crappy design of adventure writers during the tenure of any edition with the actual capabilities of the edition. Also, many of my responses are just a reference back to my earlier post, which already discussed much of this.
I think that's a fair stance. But overall, I was replying to another conversation, and about 5th edition specifically, in some of the bits you're quoting, so some of your comments don't make sense in that light (and I wasn't ignoring you so much as dealing with one person at a time, and it takes me a long time to type up these things).

And to underscore this point I would like to point out that they started publishing the Dragonlance modules using the 1e ruleset before the Unearthed Arcana was published. Just because the modules cater to a playstyle doesn't mean the mechanics require it.
I completely agree, and have actually written specifically on this subject (on the late G+, so I can't reference it). It's why I said in my very first post in the thread that "Old school play is two things: play style, and rules mechanics." I've never held to the school that only mechanics matter. But I do claim that mechanics inform playstyle, that what's in the rules shapes what tends to come out of them.

Possibly true of 0e and B/X, but AD&D isn’t particularly lethal. I actually find 4e to be more dangerous than AD&D, except in 4e published adventures, which are set on easy level. But that is again an adventure design issue, not a system issue.
Bad article; expert cherry-picking that largely ignores the often much lower hit point totals (it makes a joking aside to mages with 1 HP, but doesn't stop to actually consider that this was a common thing, and with more than just mages), completely ignores the existence of (very common) green slime, yellow mold, rot grubs, and save or dies at all levels in general. It ignores wandering monsters as a baked-in design decison (vs. all planned encounters). It also completely ignores the (sometimes much, much higher) wilderness encounter numbers (hope you like your orcs and morlocks by the hundreds), and, though admittedly less common, the level disparities that exist on some random encounter tables (i.e. that you can get monsters way outside your threat level, not just "level-appropriate" ones: e.g. in OD&D you have a 1 in 6 chance of your 1st dungeon level wandering monster being ogres, wraiths, lycanthropes and the like). And it seems to ignores the later edition healing surge and rest mechanics completely, an extremely odd oversight.

(As an aside, I'm curious as to what makes it harder to run away in 4th compared to 1st, as the writer claims; that's not a rules interaction I'm familiar with. In 1st and such, it's theoretically easy, but in practice the existence of heavily armoured fighters with the resultant mandatory speed penalties means that you're only getting away if you're willing to toss the fighters or you have enough money or food or some other trick to get around their slow speeds via distractions).

None of those are system issues, they are all adventure design issues.
You mention this a lot, so I'll try to cut to the chase somewhat: what you're responding to here was all in response to the other guy asking to lay down old school principles so we could be on the same page, not any attempt at a refutation of all modern editions. Yes, a lot of it could be resolved via play style. The fact that modern editions don't play this way is to me rather significant, regardless of the fact that it's theoretically possible. It's not a coincidence that almost everything Bryce is reviewing sucks at conveying this style, even when the module claims that's what it's aiming at. The form dictates the function, what's technically possible aside.

But if we're having our own separate conversation here, then you and I started more in terms of specific points of detail (and I think the devil is in those here): the things I felt 4th did *mechanically*, not playstyle-wise, that hindered an attempt at an old-school gaming experience. I'll try to evenly cover the key points you raised on that issue, and the ones I did, and mash it all together.

Your mention of all the crazy 1st ed subsystems is fine, and I generally prefer fewer resolution mechanics than more. But I don't play 1st for that reason: it's too futzy. You'll note I didn't raise any of it as strengths in my earlier posts.

Social skills are just reaction and loyalty checks.
Reaction checks are for encounters, and loyalty checks are for henchmen. They're specifically situational. I think it's fair to say Diplomacy translates mostly straight across to reaction (though 4th is more generous with it does that the reaction rules in general are, suggesting it for non-combat situations in a way reaction does not, and that's not something to brush over). But there's no equivalent to the Bluff mechanic that does your lying for you, no Insight checks to serve as a quasi-lie detector. It's better than 3rd and 5th (which have more skills of this type), but overall there's only a surface similarity there. That you can force a player to do more than roll is not relevant, IMO: a roll tends to shortcut its way through that because people are lazy, and suggested mechanics dictate playstyle. But if we're looking past what the mechanics naturally lead to and instead focus on what is possible, then I agree that you can mandate RP with all rolls.

Perception checks replace the find traps mechanic, the find secret doors mechanic, and the surprise mechanic.
*Passive* perception does this, yes (and I like it a lot as a mechanic for that reason, except with surprise, but I don't think it's worth going into here). But active perception absolutely does not. In 4th going active only takes a minute (not that time at that level is that important in 4th) and is something available to all, and there's no requirement to describe what you're doing. You can just say the magical phrase "I make a Perception check", and it's done. There's no need for interaction with the world (though we can re-apply everything we covered re: social skiils to here, I suppose). Again, a surface similarity that winds up playing very differently RAW.

Healing and exploratory endurance
I hope you'll understand that I want to try and condense your original response a bit. Let me know if I've skipped something important.

4th has the "you don't die until you're negatively blooded" rule, and 1st edition has -10 HP bleeding rule and I can accept that they're close enough for horseshoes. But no old-school game has multi-tier death saves. It's also worth noting that OD&D, Holmes, and B/X all have 0 HP = death, so I think you're overly focusing on 1st ed here. Either way, more lethal. And there's no such thing as healing surges in a ye olde game, so not every character can just recover 1/4 of their HP multiple times a day at will: you need to get out of battle (if you can) and drink a potion (if you have any, and they're on you), or hope the cleric can get to you and has anything left in the tank. This is vital.

As for your comparison of the two editions' post-battle healing, I again find it a matter of surface similarities and vitally different details. You say that there's no effective difference between holing up and healing surging until you're better vs. holing up and clericing away until you're better. But at 1st level a cleric has one spell in 1st ed, and none in OD&D, Holmes, and B/X. So you can't even do that in some games at the start, and in the others you're unlikely to have enough healing spells to heal everyone in a day unless the fight was very simple or you've got lots of clerics and they're decided to avoid anything but taking healing spells. But more importantly, because of the wandering monster mechanic, you can't just "hole up": that's a recipe for suicide. You very rarely shack up in the dungeon (OD&D players in particular I've seen laugh hysterically at the idea), because something will come for you unless you find a very unusual secret place. So most times you have to leave, and then the wilderness adventure portion comes in (because travel matters in these games) and the wandering monster encounters are far worse ou there. Overall, the practical differences are immense.

I agree with you that it's a low-level thing only, though since old-school games spend a lot more time there thanks to the slower rates of advancement (much slower, in the case of 5th), that's not at all as minor as it sounds. I do agree that mandating a focus on the logistics of wielding the light source is within the reach of any game.

Resources in general (food, water, ammo)
I think you've sold me on the idea that the mechanics for 4th on these are fine, encumbrance aside. The game doesn't at all emphasize this stuff, but it's there.

I don’t remember the exploration rules for 2e. However, I’ve scoured the AD&D DMG for guidelines regarding the frequency of wandering monster checks in dungeons, and the die to be rolled for the check, and never found anything (overland adventures do have it listed though.
P. 110 (1 in 10 chance every hour, vs. OD&D's 1 in 6 once every 10 minute double-move, B/X's 1 in 6 every 20 minutes, or 1st ed's 1 in 6 every 30 minutes).

Thanks for your patience; I hope I got it all (it's a complicated topic, and a lot was said). I don't know if I'll be able to take this degree of time any longer though, so don't feel slighted if I pass up further responses.
 

Melan

*eyeroll*
And to underscore this point I would like to point out that they started publishing the Dragonlance modules using the 1e ruleset before the Unearthed Arcana was published. Just because the modules cater to a playstyle doesn't mean the mechanics require it.
That is a fair point. Games are adaptable, and one of A/D&D's strengths has always been its relative versatility (although it also has oddly specific features like the Vancian magic system or the entire cleric class). My point is that rules and design philosophy interact.

My stance on the matter is mostly based on the experience of spending years trying to hammer 3.0's square peg into old-school gaming's round hole. I stand firm in my convictions here. Since I haven't played or run 5e, all my information there is second-hand. My friends play it and like it, and even use it in fairly old-school ways, but they do mention it poses hurdles when trying to stick to the game style. That peg is still pretty squarish.

But the more general topic of this thread was whether "the OSR" has outlived its usefulness. That, I think, is bollocks.
 

Yora

Should be playing D&D instead
I think we all can agree that we have now established that OSR Traditionalists as a group definitely exist. Though I am not sure what defines and unifies the content they are creating. Know of any material from the last years that is Classic OSR in style?
 
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