Old School fantasy

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screenmonkey
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Old School fantasy

#1 Postby screenmonkey » Thu Nov 27, 2008 11:40 pm

After reading this excellent article on the subject of what it is to game "Old School", i wondered how to tweak SW to encourage this type of play. Paying particular attention to the Zen moments and Tao of the GM, i thought:

1. Lose Tests of Will rules, including the Intimidation and Taunt skills.
2. Lose the Notice skill.
3. Lose Persuasion and maybe even Streetwise?

Any ideas?

Maybe generate attribute scores randomly via card draws? Randomly generated starting cash?

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#2 Postby SlasherEpoch » Fri Nov 28, 2008 4:17 am

Having glanced through aforementioned article, I fail to see how it should redefine your style of play. If anything, SW reinforces the old school style with its GM-friendliness - it encourages you to wing it during a game.

As for Notice: Frankly, I'm not in the world my character is in. I expect them, I count on them, to pick up little details I can't possible see.

All the personality skills: It's always a tough call whether to make a roll or not. I say the roll is only necessary when it doesn't really "count." If the characters absolutely must bluff their way past a guard to continue the adventure, hell, I'm not about to let the possibility of a failed die roll slow the evening down. If, however, they can intimidate, persuade, bluff, or bribe the guard, I say let the dice handle it.

Make sense?

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#3 Postby screenmonkey » Fri Nov 28, 2008 10:00 am

SlasherEpoch wrote:Having glanced through aforementioned article, I fail to see how it should redefine your style of play.

It's not a matter of should, but of preference. There is something to be said for that style of play and it is difficult to capture that feel with the rules as they stand. On the other hand, I have a few newer players in my group who are getting a good handle on SW, so I was hoping to avoid bringing in a whole new rules set for some old school dungeon crawling.


If anything, SW reinforces the old school style with its GM-friendliness

But it discourages it with edges that makes it very easy to persuade the guards of anything without any roleplaying (Charisma +6 anyone?) or for a character to notice anything with a simple die roll (Awareness, Investigator, and so on).


As for Notice: Frankly, I'm not in the world my character is in. I expect them, I count on them, to pick up little details I can't possible see.

And that's great, me too. I love playing extremely observant detective types - but that's not old school as defined in the article. In the old days it was up to the DM to describe an area, and then it was up to the players to pay attention well enough to pick those important bits that needed further investigation. The players skill was a significant factor in how well their PC survived and prospered.


All the personality skills: It's always a tough call whether to make a roll or not. I say the roll is only necessary when it doesn't really "count."

Then why make the roll at all? Why not let it depend on the roleplaying of the players? By forcing them to not make a roll, the player has to think more about how to go about getting what they want. This leads to more immersion and more entertaining roleplaying (at least in my experience).



All of these things are a matter of preference. SW was designed with more "modern" gaming in mind. There's nothing wrong with that. I'm just trying to get some input on what to tweak to "force" a different style of play (one that some of the gamers at the table have fond memories of and that others know nothing about).

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#4 Postby Tuesday » Fri Nov 28, 2008 10:40 am

While I like their "old-school" setup, part of the problem (admitted in the text itself!) is that is rapidly turns intelligence and charisma into dump stats, since your character is never given a chance to be smarter than the player or penalised for being dumber, and your character's persuasiveness and style is ignored beside the player's ability to think rapidly on his feet.

As for adjusting SW: I wouldn't lose Tricks and Tests Of Will - they're the way that Savage Worlds *allows for* all that improvisation. Take "dive from a ledge onto the goblin" guy - that's an Agility Trick and a Wild Attack, maybe even with The Drop to both if the goblin really doesn't know he's there.

Which is, if he succeeds on both rolls, the goblin is -2 Parry and Shaken, then he almost certainly hits with a Raise or +1d6, and does +6 damage above that regardless of the Raise.

Basically, those mechanics are how the system handles that kind of improvisation. If you take them out, you're left re-inventing the wheel when you need them. But, absolutely, assign plusses and minuses based on the description and the situation.

Losing Notice: Well, what happens when you've got a situation where two people both have logical reasons to succeed? One person is on guard, he's got his back to the fire to preserve his night vision, and he's alert and wide awake and watching the only approach to the camp. The sneaker sees him, knows all this, is wearing a medieval ghillie suit, and is creeping up at a crawl in the undergrowth. How do you determine whether the sneaker or the watcher is better? You roll Notice-vs-Stealth.

Losing Persuasion and Streetwise: better, but here we fall back into the original problem. How many of your gamers can seriously claim to be able to work like a Charisma 18 Bard who's a sly conman? Worse, what happens when the shy guy who's a little slow on his verbal feet builds (or, worse, ROLLS) that character and then finds himself unable to talk his way past the dullest guard in existence because he himself stammers, breaks eye contact, and says "uh... I'm supposed to be here! Yeah, that's the ticket!" out loud?

I make people try, but I like having the rules in place to let the character do things the player can't, and to prevent the player from doing things his character can't. There doesn't have to be a D20- or GURPS-style 500-page list of things your character cannot do, but a quick way to say "well, that's a great story, but your PC has no Persuasion and has a -4 Charisma, a speech impediment, and also he's wearing a Manchester United jersey in a Liverpool bar on game day. You might have convinced the guy, but your character needs a bloody miracle. Roll it" is handy.


Personally, I say leave the mechanics alone, and make a point of penalising people for using them before playing. A story gets you +0 on your roll. A good story gets +1 or even +2 for an inspired one, and *how* you tell it doesn't matter as much as what you say - your character's skill and Charisma cover the "how". No explanation at all, just "I search for traps" or "I bluff the guard" or "I roll streetwise to find his home address" gets you a -1 or a -2.

As well, I make a point of rewarding the first few people to provide that kind of description in a session with a Bennie, and in adding more Bennies for the best descriptions throughout the session.

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#5 Postby Tuesday » Fri Nov 28, 2008 10:42 am

But it discourages it with edges that makes it very easy to persuade the guards of anything without any roleplaying (Charisma +6 anyone?)


So, instead you'd rather that all characters always be as persuasive or charismatic as the player, no more, no less?

(We don't make characters *fight* as well as their players, why should we restrict them to always and exclusively *talking* or *thinking* as well as their players?)

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#6 Postby Tavis » Fri Nov 28, 2008 10:59 am

Why would a Man U fan be in Liverpool Bars on a game day? They'd want to be there marginally less than a Man City bar - and that's saying something!
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#7 Postby MountZionRyan » Fri Nov 28, 2008 11:07 am

Robert Carlyle in Formula 51/51st State
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0227984/
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#8 Postby Tuesday » Fri Nov 28, 2008 11:10 am

Why would a Man U fan be in Liverpool Bars on a game day? They'd want to be there marginally less than a Man City bar - and that's saying something!


That's not the point. Make it "wearing all red in a crip neighbourhood" or "wearing a yarmulke to a Klan rally" if you want. The point is, this is someone who is NOT going to be convincing.

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#9 Postby Tavis » Fri Nov 28, 2008 11:21 am

I was taking your chain and yanking on it Tuesday.
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#10 Postby SlasherEpoch » Fri Nov 28, 2008 4:57 pm

I agree with Tuesday, partially because he said more elegantly what I was trying to say :D

Unlike a lot of systems, SW is actually designed from the ground up to provide mechanics for improvisation. Any risky maneuvers meant to cause more damage are Wild Attacks. The player can come up with the most elaborate description they want, it's all one thing.

Maneuvers meant to place the enemy at a disadvantage are Tricks. Insults and bullying are Tests of Will. Good stories, good taunts, and good tactics get bonuses - those are things the players invent; otherwise we have to at some point place our faith in all the ink and pencil we put down at character creation.

And as for persuasiveness: Yeah, I usually play slick talking bastards. Am I a slick talker? ...on a good day, sure. I come from an acting background and I have a lot of improv training. But I can make mistakes.

My Deadlands character has +6 to Persuasion - I treat that as something I have to live up to when I spin a yarn, not an automatic bonus to a weak story. I still have to trust that that guy is better at manipulation than I am. My entire character concept depends on it!

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#11 Postby jamused » Sat Nov 29, 2008 12:17 am

I view old-school as more a state of mind than a quality of the rules, so I wouldn't really change or remove any of the SW rules. Old school had plenty of rules and rolls for situations that are covered by skills in more modern games; the real difference there was there was a fixed roll with the GM supplying ad-hoc modifiers based on what the players said and did. There's really no difference between rolling a d6 for surprise or 2d6 on a reaction chart and rolling Notice or Persuasion; old school just had fewer distinctions between characters (and those mostly based on stats, race, or class instead of individual choices).

Probably the biggest thing that makes old school different is tearing down the wall between what the character knows and what the player knows. It's not so much whether you are playing a character smarter or dumber (or more or less charismatic, or whatever) than you are, as whether you're allowed to use any clever thing that you the player can think of to achieve your goal. A DM might ask "would you really think of that?" for a character who had abysmal INT or WIS but by and large good play was play that succeeded in not getting the character killed, not play that was true to the character's conception and internal life even if that meant the character's death. A simple example: in old school if the party got wiped out by something horrible in a particular place or a particularly fiendish trap, it was assumed that the new party would know about it and either avoid that or come prepared. I can't recall anybody ever suggesting that by rights, the new party ought not to know about it and walk right into the same trap.

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#12 Postby The Angle » Sat Nov 29, 2008 3:21 pm

Part of what separates "old school" from "new wave" gaming is how stats are interpreted. Nowadays, a stat such as Smarts is taken to be a real if abstract measure of both how much a character knows and how much he's capable of knowing. In early D&D, OTOH, Intelligence determined just one thing -- how many spells a character could memorize (a narrow use of how much the character is capable of knowing, not how much he actually knows). It might have been better for everyone if, instead of calling it Intelligence, Gary had called it Spell Acuity or some such.

In the game, the character's ability to figure out a puzzle was exactly the player's ability to figure out the puzzle. We played games where there was no roll to open a secret door. The roll allowed you to know that there was a secret door, either by spotting a hairline crack or noting a hollow return to your knocking. Those are things that can't be narrated. Once the characters knew there's a secret door, or a high probability of one, then the DM could describe the location in detail and let players describe how they were manipulating objects in an effort to open the door. It was the players' ingenuity and inquisitiveness that would get the door open, not the characters'.

In the hands of an expert DM, this is a thrill -- far more engaging and exciting than rolling some dice to see whether your character figures out the door mechanism. In the hands of a poor or inexperienced DM, however, it's tedious and frustrating. Sadly, poor DMs outnumber good ones (by a wide margin among young players). In that regard, rules that take such things out of the GM's hands are desirable.

Good GMs will always run their games however they want, using and ignoring dice rolls as the situation demands. The rules exist to support GMs until they get to the level where manipulating the story becomes more important than simply manipulating events.

In the end, this endless merry-go-round argument about old-school vs. new-wave gaming is just cerebral out-gassing. Both have merits, and they are not incompatible within a single campaign or even set of rules. Dice rolls and narrative are both GM's tools. A good carpenter uses a hammer AND a saw, not just one or the other.

Steve
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#13 Postby Wendigo1870 » Sun Nov 30, 2008 12:08 pm

Tuesday wrote:
But it discourages it with edges that makes it very easy to persuade the guards of anything without any roleplaying (Charisma +6 anyone?)


So, instead you'd rather that all characters always be as persuasive or charismatic as the player, no more, no less?
My god, all my players' characters would be down at -4 CHA all the time :lol: !
He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.
— Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

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#14 Postby jamused » Sun Nov 30, 2008 1:03 pm

The Angle wrote:Good GMs will always run their games however they want, using and ignoring dice rolls as the situation demands. The rules exist to support GMs until they get to the level where manipulating the story becomes more important than simply manipulating events.


Disagree completely. The rules exist to support player decision-making without having to read or manipulate the GMs story preferences.

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#15 Postby Tuesday » Sun Nov 30, 2008 1:08 pm

Another thought for people, semi-related:

How many of you have played or read about Wushu, and the "Law Of Narrative Control"?

Basically, in Wushu you don't declare your action and then roll to see if it works. You declare your action, *it happens exactly as you described it*, and you roll to see how much closer it brought you to the end of the scene. The only restrictions are that you're not allowed to narrate an end to the scene until the dice say you can, and anyone else at the table, player or GM, can veto your description and say "no, man, try again" if they feel you're being out-of-genre - shooting the enemy with a sniper rifle in a Bruce Lee Movie game, etc.

It's an extremely different style of gaming. It takes a little getting used to, but it can be a whole lot of fun.

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#16 Postby jamused » Sun Nov 30, 2008 3:09 pm

Tuesday wrote:Basically, in Wushu you don't declare your action and then roll to see if it works. You declare your action, *it happens exactly as you described it*, and you roll to see how much closer it brought you to the end of the scene.


I could see it working for certain very stylized, genre-heavy games, but it's not really what I play RPGs for.

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#17 Postby The Angle » Sun Nov 30, 2008 3:09 pm

Disagree completely. The rules exist to support player decision-making without having to read or manipulate the GMs story preferences.

Perhaps I was unclear. I didn't mean that the GM could ignore a die roll once it's made or that the GM's story should override the player's intentions. (I once played old-school D&D with a highly-respected "master DM" who did just that, and it was one of the most frustrating, unenjoyable campaigns ever.) What I meant was, rules often allow a die roll that the situation renders inappropriate, unnecessary, or even counterproductive. An inexperienced GM who allows (or worse, calls for) that roll simply because the rules allow it can find himself scrambling to bend the adventure around an unexpected and pointless event. A GM with the experience to see the pitfall sidesteps it by saying, "There's no need to roll. Here's what happens." He gives center stage to drama rather than probability.

This never-ending old shool/new wave argument has all the characteristics of a religious schism. One camp preaches that the very existence of rules governing PC/NPC dialog makes true role-playing impossible; the other holds that in the absence of such rules, the game and the players are hostages of the GM's tyrannical whims. Both of those extremes are true when the GM doesn't know his business; neither of them is true when he does.

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