Friday, September 1, 2017

My "Old School" Expectations & D&D Play-style

Dead Air, Filling the Silences: I have really been trying not to fill every silence that happens at the table, because I've realized that it is not my job to do so (it is the group's responsibility as a whole).  By letting that dead air just HANG there I have found that players tend to get more proactive and fill it themselves by engaging in dialogue with one another or doing something.

Dice Rolling & Randomness: I will only roll dice (or call for a dice roll) when I want a random result.  There will be times when I just say your character succeeds at an action without a roll.  Many times I include descriptive details that would be the result of a roll as well to cut down on the number of times dice are rolled.  IF the dice hit the table however we will be incorporating that outcome (I don't fudge dice).  There will be more randomness in character creation (namely rolling 4D6 dropping the lowest die straight down the stat line) to discourage min-maxing but the rest of character creation is a series of player choices.  

Emergent Narrative: While I will be using the rough draft of my Suffering of the Moth Queen adventure, it is more like a current situation and sandbox and I have NO idea how your characters will navigate its challenges or what will happen after they get involved in what is happening.  The story will emerge from play as the characters explore the environment and interact with creatures and NPCs.

Exploration and Interaction with the Environment: I think part of an old school game is exploring strange locations, mapping them out, and discovering what lies in those fuzzy un-mapped areas.  Every room will not have an encounter, and everything you encounter will not try to kill you.  Sure, other things WILL be trying to kill you but even then they will be interacting at the characters.  I don't think in-character role-playing needs to end when initiative is rolled.  As a general rule try to listen to the descriptions of things as there are often hints and clues sprinkled in there.

Heroic Characters, Not Superheroes: Some of the house rules will aim to reduce the power level of the characters so that a bit more realism is prevalent during play.  Characters will most likely die at some point during the course of the adventure, and that's okay (note that resurrection is an option).  I find that if death is a real possibility for the characters combats have more of an exciting edge to them.  Also, when fights are dangerous I find that players look for other options than just hitting things in the face with swords.  hehe.

In-character Role-playing, Not Social Skill Checks: I gutted Charisma and all of the social skills because I want to promote in-character role-playing.  You don't have to be an actor using accents and stuff however.  Just do your best.  It is evident when someone is trying and that is all I can ask for.  Plus, I find bantering back and forth in-character to be one of the things I really enjoy about RPGs.

Meaningful Character Decisions: I will not be using any "Quantum Ogres" as you go through the dungeon.  I want to make choice matter.

Pro-active Players and Risk Taking: Don't be afraid to think outside of the box to try something new.  All of the answers are not on your character sheet.  If you just sit there your characters won't do anything cool.  That being said, the world that the characters will be exploring is dangerous and being careful at the right moment might save your character's life.  Without risks there are no gains however.  

Rulings / Rules as Guidelines: The rules are guidelines and at the end of the day the GM will make a call for a situation where the rules are unclear or too unrealistic and move the game forward with a ruling.  I don't want to fight over the rules during a game session but afterward we can look up the rules that are in question.  The GM is the final arbiter and referee of the rules while the game is going on.  I will try to be fair, and I always like to get feedback so feel free to let me know.

Theater of the Mind: I mostly run games in a more theater of the mind approach (aka no miniatures or grids).  In the case of complex combats I might throw out some flat marbles, dice, etc. to represent things though.  

Unbalanced Encounters: Everything the characters face will NOT be of an appropriate challenge rating.  Sometimes the best choice is to run like Hell or hide or do some talky-talky.  There should be some clues in the room description to let you know that this thing that you are facing is deadly (like a mountain of skulls, or blood everywhere, or corpses hanging from walls).  

Weird & Wonderful: I hope to drench modified fantasy tropes with strange horrific details.  At times I can dip down into dark fantasy.  I look at megadungeons as strange supernatural mythic underworlds where reality's rules need not apply.  They aren't just piles of ruined mortar and stones in my mind. 


  1. Fantastic list. I've been tweaking the rules for a more AD&D-like experience myself, and this list is a very good fit for what I've been doing.

    1. Thanks. I tried recently to run a D&D 5E like this with modern players and their eyes just about rolled out of their sockets... haha. I'll probably go back to trying to run AD&D or an OSR game of some form once this experiment ends.