An OSRIC Prequel

For the past two months, I’ve been participating in something of an experiment. @SaveVersusDeath is running an #OSRIC campaign for @Hzurr, @EldritchReverie, and I using Skype and Obsidian Portal.

The game is a continuation of Sersa’s home game which is temporarily on hold. We are playing lvl 0 characters who are pretty much reinventing the wheel on adventuring as we explore the ruins of Tolsante Rook’s ancient keep in the future of Sersa’s game. If you want to read up on our misadventures, here is our Obsidian Portal page.

I am many, many years removed from my experiences as a 2nd Ed D&D player. Then, as now, the game was much more narrative and we played mostly without visual aids. Our main tools are our ears and our imaginations as we descend into the ruins times and time again. The play experience is significantly different that what I’ve come to expect in my 3.x/4E games and that is a very welcome change of pace.

For one, pretty much the only thing I check during a session is my list of possessions or my notes and ‘map’. Not a lot of time is wasted on deciding what my character can do. As long as the action is reasonable (or AWESOME) it is allowed. We don’t need a character sheet to tell us what those actions are. In effect, I have even more choice, really, but it doesn’t seem that way without the list of actions in front of me.

Consequently, when combat happens it is a quick, brutal affair where our PCs are in immediate and deadly peril. I don’t think we’ve had a combat last longer that 4 rounds and certainly no longer that 10 minutes in real-time. I can’t say that I miss the more tactical nature of later editions either. While our experience with later editions can inform our tactics during an OSRIC session, the depths of those mechanics simply hasn’t been necessary to do what we like! Very satisfying… and our attention remains focused on the narrative—we don’t lose momentum or have time to obtain a general’s detachment from the action.

Overall, I’m surprised to find that combat meshes very well with all the other challenges of the dungeon. Whether we are conversing with a ghost or racing time to avoid a deadly trap, the “mechanic” is pretty much the same. Think of what you would do in that situation and just say it!

There are actual die-rolling mechanics in the game and they may seem counter-intuitive at first but I think I have that figured out. When D&D was designed, I think Gygax and Arneson just decided what a decent probability of success for an action would be and they picked the smallest size of die that can reasonably represent that percentage. I may find myself rolling a d6, d%, or a d20 for a test because there is no unified system of roll + modifier vs DC. That takes a little getting used to, but it isn’t very difficult to master.

Another thing that strikes me about the die mechanics is that it sets hard limits to the upper and lower ends of what a player can achieve. I knew that going in because I had the same thoughts when I first learned 3E, but I had forgotten what that means in the game. It certainly changes the feel of gameplay for me in ways I can’t quite articulate yet. That may be a fancy way of saying that it may be all in my head, but we’ll see if I can quantify that later.

While I enjoy the tactical challenges of later D&D editions, I have always held that I am a role-player at heart. If that is true, I really need to up my game because Sersa’s DMing style is pushing me to do it. There is often the added pressure of time and there isn’t much chance to think of what to say or do. Despite my best intentions I am still caught flat-footed sometimes. I like to infuse a little character into my actions but the wheels in my
head are even rustier than I feared and I need work them a little bit to improve the action. There is room to be clever, creative, and to act out, even if those interactions seem brief.

Sersa has recorded a few sessions and there may be an actual play podcast in the future. They sound quite good despite the constant adjustments we make to help the game run more smoothly through Skype. We almost have it right and I think that when we start the main campaign you will all be in for a treat. Our play sessions run for almost two hours, but the plan is to cut the podcast down to 40 minutes so all you get is the tasty meat of the game in progress. When we get to that, I hope that you will join us for a spell and get a better feel for what I am trying to convey here.

This game is fun, it is fast-paced, and it puts hair on your chest.

It feels good to play D&D using older, lighter rules. I’ve played a lot of other game systems over the years and while I have been inspired by some, none of it has felt like magic the way this game has. Much of that has to do with the quality of Sersa’s DMing and my fellow players so I’m left to wonder how much effect the rules have actually had on the game play. Surely we could play the same adventure in any system, but I firmly believe that OSRIC has enabled us in a way that those systems haven’t and then got out of the way of a damned good time.

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~ by Hunter Rose on December 2, 2011.

One Response to “An OSRIC Prequel”

  1. I think they work well in concert. When 4e came out, people said it was a, “miniatures game” and they meant that as a pejorative. They were drawing a line between, say, Warmachines, and table top RPGs and suggesting that 4e was on the wrong side of that line. But you can also use the term, “miniatures game” without the implied put-down – 4e is a lot of fun, it sidesteps the snarls that you got into in previous iterations and made combat very tactical by virtue of it being a “miniatures game.”

    And too much of a good thing can get old for anyone – I play a lot of 4e and I yearn for some older rules games where narrative was so much more important; similarly, sometimes all I want to do is have my Tiefling, Baldric, the Ever-Weeping Sad Boy, punt a lich around a room while everyone else beats it to second-death.

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