Monday, July 19, 2010

Old School is mostly imagination, Newer School is about options and also Why No 4e?

Just a random though while I was looking through my books.

Old school gamer (OD&D, B/X, AD&D and early 2e) were toolkits to aid in imagination. Sure they had options, sometimes plenty of them, but they were often simply meant as spurs to you imagination.

Newer school games, late 2e (with the Kit books) and up are more about options. Rather than winging it, you can easily grab a book and viola, the rule will be there for you.

4e is perhaps the ultimate iteration of that, where virtually every cool thing your character or a monster can do is a power of some kind . The monsters tactics are fully specked out for you, the treasure is in literal parcels and all you have to do is take what pieces you want provide flavor text, set up the board, play. This structures the game in a way that Old School games never did. This is not wrong, if you like it mind and while I enjoy creating options for Pathfinder and such -- that amount of structure is no longer what I want in my D&D.

In fact I'd say my ideal D&D is more about imagination than anything else. Just roll some dice, be fair, err on the side of generous and go play. And since it doesn't feel like 4e supports that, I won't be buying in.

Instead because making options for that game is fun to me, I'll support Pathfinder and I'll play old style any time I can.


  1. Hmmm...good points you raise there. What I don't really like about feats, powers, call 'em what you will, is the way that they're all codified and defined now. What it does is disempowers the DM because no matter how much he's prepared, planned or read the rules, someone else has read them better and can turn around and say "Yeah, my character CAN do that, it says so here on page 456..."

    In the old days, that decision was ultimately in the hands of the DM - now it's his say versus the rules and reduces his POV, formerly the ultimate reference to just one more opinion.

    Some people like that structure, the reassurance that the DM can't screw them over. If that's their bag, let 'em play it like that. I'm not saying it's wrong, I just don't like to DM with my hands tied behind my back.

  2. Good post.
    I'm in a two groups right now, and the GM in the latter is very much a slave to the rules as written. I'm actually losing interest because I feel there is no room for my imagination at all. if the rules say it's red, it's red, and you can't possibly paint it blue, because if it could be blue, there would already be a blue one. An abstract example, but hopefully you get what I mean. Incidentally, it isn't 4e (or even D&D.)

    I ran 4e for about six months, and finally I had to quit because I felt like I was just plugging things in; treasure parcels and balanced encounters via the "xp budget" system. I felt like 4e had sort of written the DM out of the action. When I finally did end it, several of my players admitted that they felt no attachment to their characters, who they saw as just a bunch of "special moves."

    @Daddy G.- Yeah, I see the trust issues in the way mechanics are set up. I think that if a gamer can't trust his DM, he's playing with the wrong DM.