Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Old School vs New School: The debate rages

Recently at Dungeon Mastering, there was a post about if old school play or new school play proveded more control over ones character. However it seems the author doesn't fully grasp the difference between old and new school gaming. To compound matters he never goes on to fully explain what he feels the delineation should be. So now I will post my feelings on the matter and hope that somebody gains some amusement out of this. These are also very simplified and boiled down, please don't lynch me if you feel I missed your favorite/most important element to a game philosophy.

Old School
These games are often sandbox games, although they don't need to be. The concept of mapping your character out from level one to level 30 and expecting it to happen that way, is unreasonable because any number of events and affects could side track that goal. The PCs are free to make their own decisions if it means fleeing the dungeon and not returning or crossing the great sea in search of treasure so be it. From loot generation to random encounters through to what was just pick pocketed off the PC this should be random. Also even if a skill system if in place the result of a difficult or unusual action, should be modified by how reasonable or outlandish a PCs explanation of the activity.

New School
These games are plotted out, have the concept of cut scenes and boxed text. They can be fun and entertaining. Often everything you need to beat the baddies is there the PCs just need to put the puzzle pieces together. Most believe their PCs are destined for greatness and a player leaving the group or an unexpected non-revocable character death can cause the DM some serious consternation. These are like the best of the old adventure computer games they play well and have a lot of great reveals that make everyone feel great for accomplishing something.

Currently I am playing 4E and just wrapped up a 2nd Ed. D&D game and replaced it with a Traveler game. So I like to think I straddle both lines of gaming. I do prefer a campaign world where the DM does not want to force us into a railroad of a plot, and in fact one where the plot is in the background until we "step in it" while trying loot a dungeon or search for lost secrets that will allow us to do that over arching thing we the PCs want to do. What does that make me? I suppose more in favor of the old school. If my GM has a master plot to run the PCs through it better be entertaining because if there is something that sounds more interesting that stopping the demon prince Kerfflufle from conquering the world I might go off and do it and let some other band of suc...er...Heroes take care of it.

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