2011-06-21 I Prefer Traditional Games, I Think


I was reading Don't be afraid of Nostalgia by Stefan Poag and noticed this awesome quote:

Pure and simple, for many, D&D represents a lost age: It was an individualized, user-driven, DIY, human-scaled creative space separate from the world of adults and the intrusion of corporate forces. As Allison rightly noted, D&D recalls that day “before orcs and wookiees were the intellectual property of vast transmedia corporations.” Back when you had lots more free time than money—before girlfriends, job, kids. Life. – How Dungeons & Dragons changed my life by Ethan Gilsdorf

I noted it on Google Reader and Lior commented on Google Buzz “Would we not be better off if, just every once in a while, we would also mention RPGs other than D&D? Maybe one of those games which is not about inherently geeky tropes and is not structured around campaigns of 30+ hours and constant player groups?” [1] He lamented the missed opportunities, and I have to agree. There are many people left behind because of obligations and distractions. Traditional games are demanding in terms of time and effort.

Speaking for myself, however, I have noted the following preferences:

Thus, while I am still interested in toying with other systems – Lady Blackbird, Solar System (The Shadow of Yesterday), Polaris – my interestes right now point towards old school, traditional games. I’d be interested in Legend of the Five Rings, or GURPS, or Warhammer 2nd ed. All of them are traditional role-playing games. They need long term, regular play.

So yes, the game style I currently prefer leaves many people behind. Given these preferences, and given the list above, I’d rather try and solve the problems with my preferred play style:

The last point is a bit problematic for me right now. On the one hand, recent years have been blessed with a gazillion opportunities to play. On the other hand, summer has come and people prefer to be doing other things. I’ve had to cancel a few sessions, lately: if there is a large pool of five to eight people, it is usually not a problem to find three of them willing to play (three being my lower limit). The drawback is the ugly truth of discovering that other people might have different priorities on short notice.

Something about sending those emails a day or two earlier asking who will be playing and the slow trickle of responses, further delayed by people unable to read their email during the day, the uncertainty associated with the entire process—I think this is sapping group morale. I’ll have to think about this some more.



I hear you. I too have not found a game that really convinced me that it can be played over long duration, with low buy-in (simple rules, fast char-gen). I also want to see some kind of story generating feature, as seen in Mountain Witch and BW (but one that is less painful to me than BW please). What I want is a game that is A) flexible in its session structure, B) easy for the player to play but C) gives the GM lots of tools to create fun situations easily, without long preps. I understand your preference for OSR in as much as it partially covers with my preferences too.

I’d offer to try out my current game design project (current working title: ’atomic’) which is supposed to do just that: Simple player-side mechanics, all the more GM-side tools. But the lack of interest at the Monday circle towards trying out new developments and the total lack of any response (nada! sniff) to another game idea I sent around once makes me cautious about proposing to play unfinished material... Anyway, atomic is just a crude list of rules and ideas right know.

– lior 2011-06-21 13:09 UTC

Hehe, selling a game to the group is hard. I remember writing Grofzg as a teenager and being very disappointed when my players didn’t think it was teh awesome sauce. :D

I think game design and the interest in game design is separate from the joy of meeting up and trying various games. So if you have some alpha rules, and you offer to run them, and we play, awesome. I’m less sure about getting together and spending a lot of time refining, reviewing, or jointly working on a new game in the time slot reserved for playing the game. Expectations will be different.

I know that my game design interest usually ends after the addition of some house rules to my game. I’d be more willing to meet for coffee, enjoy the weather, smalltalk, and spend half an hour or an hour taking about a new game, however. Somehow the packaging makes all the difference. It’s weird, but looking back, I think that’s how it works for me.

AlexSchroeder 2011-06-21 15:09 UTC

I’m probably going to get flamed for it, but you should really give 4E Essentials a try. It contains the best ideas of 3.5, simplified and streamlined, a great skill system, and gameplay resembling 3.5 at levels 2-8 or so, before all the magic overkill inherent in high-level D&D.

Essentials especially simplified character generation quite a lot. The one thing missing is the random element in character generation...

– Jonas 2011-06-22 14:35 UTC

YES! Someone recommends 4E and it wasn’t even me :) In all honesty though, I know Alex’s particular stances on D&D in general, and while I think Essentials was definitely a good step towards streamlining 4E and rekindling some of the nostalgia of old-skool D&D, it is still a long way from the simplicity of B/X or BECMI.

Adrian 2011-06-22 15:13 UTC

I think that many people color their memories of the past. In many aspects, B/X or BECMI are simpler, but then you also have tons of tables for random stuff that really shouldn’t be there in the first place, and some arbitrary complicated rules and exceptions. This, and having all the information needed in a nice, standardized format on your character sheet really cuts down on the time spent looking up spells etc. in rulebooks.

– Jonas 2011-06-22 16:00 UTC

I suppose that, when I say ’simpler’, I am referring to the tactical combat and character creation mini-games implicit to 4E, whether Essentials or not. I realize that pre-3E versions of D&D often had weird rules subsystems and look-up tables that felt tacked on.

And if Alex decided to play 4E AFTER I left Switzerland, I would be so MAD!

Adrian 2011-06-22 16:13 UTC

Haha. :)

As for the coloring of my memories: I never played B/X D&D, played BECMI D&D once, never played RC D&D. I think I can safely say that nostalgia has nothing to do with it.

Since D&D 4E keeps Feats, many of which refer to tactical combat, the combat system affords the kind of combat I don’t enjoy. I also don’t like skill systems in general.

The phrase “arbitrary complicated rules and exceptions” makes me think of AD&D, specially 1st edition. The real point of my article, however, was that I preferred long term, traditional games to episodic, indie games. In this respect, D&D 4E Essentials is in fact something that satisfies many of my requirements.

AlexSchroeder 2011-06-22 16:28 UTC

Please make sure you contribute only your own work, or work licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Note: in order to facilitate peer review and fight vandalism, we will store your IP number for a number of days. See Privacy Policy for more information. See Info for text formatting rules. You can edit the comment page if you need to fix typos. You can subscribe to new comments by email without leaving a comment.

To save this page you must answer this question:

Please say HELLO.