Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Dangers of OSR and DIY Gaming

This is a bit of hyperbole on my part. These are not the sort of dangers that lead to nasty acid burns or wigging out because your character died. Instead, it’s more akin to a kind of faux pas that comes along with taking what can be an unpopular course of action.

A bit of background. About six or seven years ago, I told myself, “Self, you like gaming. Really like it. You are a fairly decent GM. Why aren't you doing it more?” I didn't really have a good answer, so I made a concerted effort to play more, and not just RPGs, but other types, like board and card games. I was running RPGs a lot more, at least two or three sessions a week, and had three official games running. My reasoning being that if one or more games were cancelled, I would still have at least one day a week that I would be playing. It worked out, and even though I burned out running 3.5, I got to spend a lot of time with my friends, and played a lot of games.

On Saturday nights, I played Pendragon with one group of friends. That campaign lasted for several years, until one of the players decided that he was dissatisfied with the game and asked for a change. I complied, and we started playing a number of different games, which eventually led to people stopping playing altogether. I tried playing both LotFP and the DCC RPG with this group before it finally fizzled out, and those were the games that finally broke the camel’s back. One player in particular felt that the game restricted his ability to accomplish the heroic stuff he wanted to do, an old complaint about OSR games that I disagree with, but have to accept when others hold this opinion. None of these players have moved to any of my other games, but I still see most of them on an irregular basis, and count them as my buddies. This group had three regular players, and three floaters.

On Tuesday nights, I ran the Age of Worms Adventure Path for D&D 3.5, and by the time the thing was half over, I was sick and tired of the system, as I have spoken of before. The adventures were fairly cool, and mostly not too broken as conventional D&D adventures, but I still really hated both prepping and running the thing. I stopped running it as we were beginning the very last adventure, which should tell you something about how I felt about the experience. Three of the players (out of six) eventually participated in my new, OSR inspired Friday night game.

On Monday nights, I played in an online game, my Miskatonic Legacies Call of Cthulhu game. This had been going on for five years, with three to four regular players for most of the run. I had one player drop out halfway during the campaign. We played using a Teamspeak server, which was perfect for CoC, for the majority of the run. All those guys, with one exception, live out of state. We plan to play again together, but without me as the GM.

Three years ago I got married, which began to restrain my available free time somewhat. (Ahem.) I have actually tried to run a couple of other campaigns during that time, along with some one-shots and tournament rounds. I tried to run classic Traveller three times, once with the CT rules, once with Mongoose Traveller, and once using FATE, but I wasn't able to sustain more than half a dozen sessions each time.

The Saturday night game ran through a number of systems after Pendragon, including Eclipse Phase (which I aborted before it began – I loved the background, but hated the system), LotFP, Runequest 6 & 7, Grimm, and the DCC RPG, which goes to show just not what to do with your regular group, I think. When I first started blogging, one of the players wrote me, impassionedly detailing his objections, which were based on the fact that he felt he expressed himself through character builds with more complex systems, not through role playing.

So now I am left with a single game, the Friday night Wilderlands campaign, which is an S&W hack using elements of B/X-LL-LotFP, along with a long list of my own variants. That meets about twice a month on average, given the inevitable cancellations. It has had a total of nine players. Two have moved out of state, and two only showed up for a couple of sessions before leaving, both former players of my 3.5 game. One was explicit in his disdain for doing all the stuff he had already felt like he had done 20 years ago, and the other left for reasons having to do with it being too long a trip to the game. I think.

So, I am down to one campaign out of three, and many of my former players (say 3-4?) simply are unwilling to play an OSR style game with me. And, frankly, I have to be OK with their decision. It’s their decision, after all, and they have the right to decide for themselves what kind game is to their liking and what kind of game is not. I know that I am having a blast, and am looking forward to seeing how the current roster of characters grow and adapt in unexpected ways, rather than being built, Frankenstein-like, right out of the gate. They still haven't grokked the amount of freedom they possess, in terms of character actions that are outside of the box during combat, as well as in terms of the campaign, but they are starting to grasp at it. They are already dizzied at the amount of rumors and scenario hooks present in the Wilderlands, which communicates that sense of possibility and mystery I get when I look at those wonderful maps.

Some people are never going to want to play this way. They are always going to want more character options, faster advancement, more power, etc. But I have to say that I believe that I have learned a lesson that they have not.

Sometimes, less is more.

I had to stop blogging the previous semester in order to work on my Honors Thesis, but that being almost done, I wanted to start blogging again in time for Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day. Tomorrow, tune in for an entire campaign, exclusively for S&W. No foolin’. 

1 comment:

  1. Very good post. We lost a long time member because he no longer wanted to play d20 games. OSR games are not his thing and that's cool. It's too bad, but along the way I've added a couple of people to the group (actually two other bloggers) and its been great gaming with new people. Hopefully you can add a few other people to play more OSR type campaign.