I get to play Labyrinth Lord with Zeno and his kids, rarely. In the spirit of yesterday’s post on old school affordances, let me list some of them, as far as I’m concerned. As I noted in yesterday’s post, whether these are affordances you prefer is an entirely different question. All I’m saying is that if you agree with them, then Labyrinth Lord or B/X D&D by Moldvay, Marsh, and Cook might be a system you’d like.
No Skills: This challenges players. They need to roleplay to be diplomatic, intimidating, bluffing, or sense the DM’s motives. I also find that players need to guess where hidden treasure and secret doors are. This usually involves mapping.
Few Classes: Fewer classes and no prestige classes or other specializations provide less mechanical differentiation between characters. Players need to roleplay in order to differentiate characters. This also makes character generation easier and faster as there is no character career planning required.
Quick Chargen: Easy character generation with few actual choices to make speed things up. A high attrition rate is therefore more acceptable as you can bring multiple characters to the table and make extras in a minute or two.
Rare Healing: Players need to avoid wandering monsters and avoid unnecessary fighting. This makes strategic decisions (when to fight) more important than tactical decisions (how to fight).
Simple Combat: No explicit rules for combat maneuvers and battle grids result in quicker combat rounds, less waiting for your turn, and possibly more fights per session, if desired.
Little Damage, Few Hit-Points: Fewer attacks and smaller damage bonuses simplify the math and speed things up.
Smaller Bonuses: The smaller bonuses due to abilities reduce the math and produce far less trickle down effects. This also makes the initial ability rolls less important (without actually resorting to point-buy). Characters are also mechanically more similar.
Random Chargen: Random character generation also provides a strong incentive to just play the class the dice suggest possibly resulting in a surprise for players and interesting party dynamics.
Treasure Is Experience: Treasure acting as story reward encourages to research their goals, picking their fights carefully. It also provides for an easy and quick reason for the party to form and go adventuring.
No Magic Item Bazaar: There are no good rules for magic item creation and trading, therefore they are rare (what you find is what you get – WYFIWYG). They cannot be used for character differentiation. Instead, creative use of magic items is encouraged since they are rare and cannot be sold to buy something else.
Random Encounters, Random Monsters: These force the DM to improvise and adapt the story on the fly (not adapting the story will lead to a dull game).
Do you agree? Things I missed? What cool experiences does your favorite system afford?
(Also note how I sneakily avoided the use of “old school” in the title, haha.)