Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Why My Default Ruleset is 1e, or: I Like Your Ruleset, But Not That Way

  I have a lot "in" the OSR: I write stuff to sell to people in the OSR; I write stuff for free I hope people in the OSR read; I chat with people in the OSR and, like any group, I like some people in the OSR, am neutral about others, and find some to be a bit off.  Heck, I have that little OSR logo on my blog, just over there.
  But I think I might be taking that off.

  No, not because I dislike the OSR, or the people, of anything like that. Nor am I disillusioned by the OSR - there is a lot of great, creative, fun stuff coming out of the OSR. It is because I am not OSR in and of myself. I am of the actual Old School itself.

  This hit me through two things. I decided to do an actual review of Swords & Wizardry (thanks for the feedback, G+ pals!) and I read in about 9 places in one week 'the OSR began with Castles & Crusades or with OSRIC'.

  I own Castles & Crusades, and a lot of their stuff. I've owned it for a long time, actually, getting plenty of it as it came out. Admittedly, some of that was to find out why the Hell they had Redcaps led by someone called 'the Horned One' since I ran Lew Pulsipher and friends against the Horned One and his Redcaps back in 1988, but still.
  Pure coincidence. Redcaps are creatures of folklore as is the Horned One.
  I also got OSRIC early on and refer to it a lot. heck, I have sent about 50 new RPG players to OSRIC as a resource in the last few years and will continue to do so. Great stuff.

  I also have a ton of the OSR stuff from S&W to Blueholme, left, right, up, and down.

  I also have the complete rules plus splats for HackMaster 4th (2 PHBs because we used them so much). I was an HMGMA member.
  Remember HackMaster? Won Game of the Year at Origins? Was a monster impact and produced the most amazingly awesome GameMasters Shield EVER? They even took the old Combat Wheel from Dragon Magazine and turned it into a real thing that I freakin' own?
  Remember that?
  Yeah, well, in my opinion, that award-winning retooling of AD&D 1e/2e is what started the hard look at OD&D/AD&D/Basic that spawned the OSR.  C&C came out three years after it, OSRIC five.
  This doesn't take away anything from anything in the great work from the creators of the OSR, I think we just need to recognize one fact-

 HackMaster 4th spawned the OSR

  Anyway, one of the reasons I loved HackMaster (in addition to the fact that I have an abiding love for KotDT since it is set in my home town and is about my hobby) was I couldn't get AD&D stuff anymore without mortgaging my kids on eBay. Yes, the Source in the Twin Cities (one of the best FLGS I have ever been in, BTW) helped, but it was still hard. HM was great stuff, readily available, and it took minimal effort to make it AD&D.
 But AD&D is the core system I have used for my hobby since about 1978-79. My notes, rules, house rules, monsters, etc. - all based on that foundation.

  So I use those books. I use that core ruleset.

  "Fine, Rick," you say, "But that means you are part of the OSR."

  Maybe not. I mean, let's look at OSRIC: it is such an amazing clone of AD&D that my house rules work as-is with about 3 word changes and dropping stuff about monks and bards and campaign specifics. My streamlined initiative and combat rules, updates to disease, maintenance rules, special hirelings, new NPC-only classes, spells, PC classes - SNAP! Fits right in, all of it. People that bought Far Realms and use it with OSRIC have given me such positive feedback, it really is humbling.

  But I don't run OSRIC, do I? I run AD&D. If I couldn't get any reprints or PDFs of AD&D books I would have 3-4 hardcopies of OSRIC sitting around, all well-thumbed, with copies of my Book of Seaward (the in-house version of Far Realms) and enjoy it a great deal.

  But I have AD&D 1e and 2e. I have OD&D and its supplements. And too much 3e. And 4e. And 5e. And all of the other rulesets that fill 3 bookcases in my house (not counting my kids' copies, which they keep track of).

  I am also doing the public playtest of Rolemaster Unified and won three version of that system, too. And I think the kids are buying Palladium FRPG right now in the other room.

  In the end this all boils down to two things, one of which I already said in another rant -

 I am always making my own game and just sue AD&D as the jumping off point. 

  The second thing is something that I believe might separate me from being in the OSR-

I am not interested in stripping down rules and mechanics.

  My goal is to make a set of rules and mechanics that allow me to create the game experience I want to pass on to the players. Here is an example - in AD&D there are some nice tools to roll for followers for fighters who become Lords. My charts are more involved with non-combatants, scribes, smiths, etc. More complexity, not less, to better reflect the total followers a fighter would get. 

  Here's the thing, though. That chart, that 'extra complexity' is for me a simplification. Before I made the chart I would sit down and spend a long afternoon working out the types of troops, their numbers, how many blacksmiths would appear, etc. 2-3 hours of solid work. At some point, about 1989 I think, I instead spent 3-4 hours making a series of charts so I could roll raw numbers in a few minutes, then spend an hour fleshing out details, modifying, etc. and - net - save myself time.

  Swords & Wizardry, For Gold and Glory, OSRIC, etc. all meet their aims well - strip down rules to their foundations. But I've spent almost 4 decades tweaking, changing, and adding to the rules. That's why I love HackMaster 4th with its wacky, complex skills and such - it looks like what I saw in the '70's. It looks like a labor of love.

  So keep doing what you like, OSR, and I'll keep making stuff that works with what you like. But my AD&D books will always be the ones most used at my house.