Tag Archives: retro

A Quick Primer For Old School Gaming

I came across a link to this today and have promptly lost track of where that was, so first, props to the unknown blogger or columnist who brought this to my attention.

Anyway, it’s a free e-book on Lulu called “A Quick Primer For Old School Gaming.”  I’m not normally into the retro-gaming movement, but I think this is important because it focuses not on the specific “recapture exactly how old D&D felt in my youth” aspect of it, but instead very incisively points out four things – conceits, if you will – that distinguished gaming back in the day and that perhaps we are starting to miss more and more.

The author, Matthew Finch, calls them “Four Zen Moments.”  They are:

  • Rulings, Not Rules
  • Player Skill, not Character Abilities
  • Heroic, not Superhero
  • Forget “Game Balance”

I agree with all of them, but the first is the most important.  I really saw it when I ran some AD&D 2e recently.  Without rules for micromanaging how many fricking inches you can jump, the game flowed faster and I as the DM had a lot more flexibility to make judgement calls – and to also use those to nudge the story.  And we didn’t use a battlemat, which made combat alive again.

Some of these aren’t universal goods, like “Heroic, not Superhero.”  Superhero games are fun too – Feng Shui was liberating to me because all the PCs start as ultra powerful badasses, so you are freed from the level grind mindset that too much D&D inculcates.  But I do like some low level stuff in my D&D – heck, I remember fondly the “zero level PC” rules that came out from time to time (Greyhawk Adventures, IIRC, was my favorite).  I do think that’s a weakness in D&D now.  If you want to start as studs, then start at level 5 or whatever.  But the approach of making level 1 superheroic denies an entire play style an opportunity.

Anyway, good stuff, and worth mulling over.