Friday, October 7, 2011

Keep it Simple Stupid

Here the stupid would be me. And I'm not talking about keeping the gaming simple necessarily, although some people really prefer that. No, I'm talking about keeping the whole discussion simple. I think I've complicated the issue unnecessarily. I've over analyzed the game situation to the point that I'm paralyzed. Analysis -- Paralysis. That's me all over. So, let's go back to simplicity.

I like AD&D. I like the relatively expanded class selection available over other simpler systems. Even the somewhat esoteric and finicky elements like the way Bards were done, Druidic orders, the Monk, and Psionics. I like the 9 alignment system, and I like separate tables for different classes. Tables for experience, for HP, for abilities, etc. I like the to hit tables, but not as much as I thought I did. I like descending AC, but could be okay with going the other direction cause it opens up the top end. I like base races, but am open to select other races if they aren't monster races. I like 3d6 for ability scores in order as a GM; I like 4d6 drop the lowest, arrange as you like if I'm a player. I like critical hit tables, but I can understand how they might suck if they could kill a high level PC in one hit. I like the concept of threshold of pain rolls, but realize realism in combat can really bite. I like d10 for initiative in a 10 second segment. Spell casting time and weapon speed added to initiative accordingly. I like weapon proficiency in a guarded way, feel only straight fighters should have that advantage generally. I'm not sure I like double specialization though, but a more fighter specific table based on weapons used or choices made. I kind of like the way HMb handles this. I like an honor system used in sort of like HM uses it. The main purpose being the enforcement of alignment and role playing. I like the baroque nature of AD&D with stuff added on at uneven angles, odd ephemera jutting out here and there, forgotten hallways or rule expansion that end in dead ends or require secret rules doors to navigate out of. I like the option of character development tables being used to randomly determine background, social class, starting wealth, quirks, flaws and talents; height, weight, eye color, hair color,  even sex. The idea being of course that we don't know how we end up coming into the world. We deal with what we get. I like this as optional only. Character development should also be player driven should they so choose. The extreme benefits possible on a random table perhaps being offset by more severe penalties. Choose your own not allowing these possibilities.

I like deadly campaigns. One in which death is an ever present threat even at higher levels. That being said I do like systems that allow players to tweak their PC creation so as to min max certain elements of their character. I like GM information being only available to GMs. Realizing of course that in practice this is often impossible. Therefore I like the freedom as GM to come up with randomly determined monsters and encounters completely unexpected by players so as to keep them guessing and on their toes. I like a mixture of dark, horror laden adventures, gritty high fantasy if you get my meaning, mostly "high" in scope and purpose rather than in power level. I also like a proper dosage of silliness and fun now and again. Craziness like was present in Gygax's Through the Looking Glass adventures are a blast when done in the right amount. I prefer for players and GMs to be equally empowered to deal with one another. Players should have as many options as needed to maximize their possibilities in the dungeons without short circuiting the GMs control, power and ability to properly challenge the players.

I also like players and GMs feeling as if they are a part of something bigger than they are. To know that their characters and their adventures are comparable to the world at large. Sure there will be differences from table to table, from game to game. But that we are playing under the same social contract, the same game structure enough so as to make PCs comparable to one another and not so individualized as to only be applicable within one campaign world. This is best achieved through a commonality of rules, but can be supported through a degree of community. Conventions, tournaments, societies, fora, game fiction, magazines, supplements, adventures, campaign worlds, fan sites and the like. And this is where the central problem lies.

In order to achieve what I want above I need a flexible umbrella that allows open ended creation but also works under a specific system. OSRIC and Adventures Dark & Deep come close in many respects, probably ADD more so than OSRIC. And both systems are flexible in being able to adapt supplements from other systems and editions; creation of new product is also possible. Numerous gamers are now offering their products for sale to others that cater to exactly such systems, or are flexible enough themselves to be easily adaptable to such a 1e oriented game. However this community is very loose. No longer gathered under one umbrella gamers of such systems are now sort of like outcasts wandering at the fringes of organized play. When will we have a castle to once again call our own.

Some OSR proponents like this freedom and lack of central authority, and I can understand why. However we lose something in such a systemless system as well. Others in the OSR point to fledgling conventions and small groups and communities developing around certain styles of play or at the least around the OSR generally. And I suppose it doesn't matter too much as long as we are playing. But just doing your own thing is fine in and of itself, but only takes us so far. And the horizon still seems so far off.

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