Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Old School Hacking

Things have been quiet lately because, well, I've been focusing my writing efforts, rather than blogging. Not that this is ALL I've done with my free time this week; I managed to make it to the Mariners game last night (I know, I know...) and I've spent a considerable amount of time simultaneously moping for my missing family and seething at the Pete Carroll's handling of the Seahawks' quarterbacks.

Anyway, I'm still reading the commentary on the blog (thanks for reading) and I had one reader call me to task for dismissing out-of-hand the Old School Hack role-playing game (which can be downloaded here, by the least the beta version) I spent some time this evening to actually read it.

Can I dismiss it out of hand now?

That's a joke, that's a joke...look, I'll stand by what I wrote in my earlier blog post (including, as I wrote, that it was a stupid post, which was my final assessment). OSH does not look very much at all like B/X D&D mechanic-wise, but I think it operates from the same stance and with the same sensibilities (fight monsters, find treasure)...if not, then what exactly is it supposed to be about? Yes, there are a number of random adventuring goals to "fill out" your character. Yes, "leveling up" is accomplished through being "awesome" rather than through acquiring treasure or kills. But it's still:
"...a world where fantastic dangers exist in a multitude of old ruins and underground lairs."
Listen, I think the basic OSH game is neat. I like that the characters simply earn new "talents" through leveling while everything else remains the same. I think the "awesome point" mechanic, as written, is just fine for the freewheeling objective of the game designer. Interestingly enough (at least, interesting to me), I've included a very similar mechanic with similar objectives in the game I've been working on the last couple days (I call mine "freebie points," for what it's worth)...though mine are a little more rigid in their mechanics. And the inspiration for mine come from a combo of Deadlands' poker chips and HEX's "style points" (just in case anyone cares).

However, the game my "freebies" are appearing in are NOT my version of D&D Mine but a more freewheeling, cinematic game where (I think) they feel appropriate. I've already said I'm a lot less inclined to "freewheel" in my fantasy games (where gritty death is more the order).

But that doesn't mean such a mechanic doesn't work for works just fine for OSH. But as I said, it doesn't particularly excite me. Which isn't saying a whole lot, by the just means it doesn't have the "juice" to get me cranked. I will say this for Old School Hack: it has fairly elegant game design and some very pretty graphics for the rules, and if given a choice between playing OSH and DCC I would choose the OSH beta, hands down. It has the same irreverence but the "fun" is amped up a bit higher. And it has a lot fewer random tables and fiddly rules (less "search & handling" time).

But, hey, that's just my subjective opinion.

Still haven't picked up a copy of ACKS yet, so I'll have to blog an apologetic post for that game later. Right now, I'm off to the 74th Street Ale House to do some writing. Later, gators!
; )


  1. See, that's fair.

    Really I don't think I'd lump this in with D&D hearbreakers for a few reasons. For one, the economic model is pretty straightforward--it's free.

    For another, it's a LOT more flexible than D&D. I've used it for straight-up fantasy D&D style, but also for Gothic fantasy, for modern survival horror, for farce, and for stealth-based play. The flexibility of the rules is much more accommodating for building characters appropriate to various themes--with the root idea that you're rewarded for (and advance due to) being "awesome" (which is contextual) the game is freed from a single vision.

    The rules are lighter than D&D in my opinion. Consider magic, if nothing else.

    Anyway, thank you for looking at something in the process of deciding what it is and what it's good for. I appreciate the gesture of downloading and glancing through it before deciding what it is and what it does.

    Now, you want to take it in hand, and then dismiss it, well sure. Different people have different tastes and styles, that's cool.

    To see a "gritty" version, check out my hack of OSH mixed with a hack of the video game "Thief." If you don't look at it, feel free not to mention it! =)

  2. @ Andrew: Hey, man, "fair" has nothing to do with it.
    ; )

    The 'fantasy heartbreakers' (so named) in Edwards's original essay were concerned about economics (i.e. 'making a buck') much more so than any publisher in the OSR. My concern (if it is one) about the 'new heartbreakers' is a more practical one: playability. Is anyone besides the designer interested in PLAYING this particular opus. And from my point o view...whether we're talking about OSH or DCC or I'm NOT. Interested, that is. That was kind of the point of my stupid post.

    Hell, I've got a lot of folks clamoring to see MY version of D&D (at least, per a recent poll) but how many people are really interested in playing it? If my ability to draw play-testers is any indication: bupkis. That's just the cold truth, man. Doesn't mean we shouldn't write...(that's why the post was "stupid") but perhaps the writing should be considered a step towards a 'greater goal.'

    Still working on the definition of WHAT that greater goal is.
    ; )

  3. Yeah, I think a lot of people are looking for new dishes to put on the buffet table when it comes to house ruling and handling different issues in D&D game play. A much smaller pool is looking for new games to run. With a mass of D&D-like-and-compatible games, that's sensible.

    That's one reason I took exception to lumping Old School Hack in with the like-D&D crowd. It may have similar activities, but the mechanics are so wildly different (and permissive) that it is a whole different experience. The rules provide great support for things that B/X would hand-wave.

    All but one of the people at my game table have played various forms of D&D over time. I could barely persuade them to try out a stripped-down version of D&D. They have absolutely no interest in going back to ANY form of D&D--but they love to play OSH (as I've hacked it.)

    I guess the other thought in there is, "why should I bother putting out a product, even a free product, if no one will be interested in playing it?"

    Heh. I think if you do game design so people will love you and say you are clever, it will NEVER be enough, no matter how much praise you get. To me it makes more sense to say "I've built the game I want to play, and there are people out there who will want to play it too." YMMV.

  4. Russell Wilson is awesome, but there's no way he's ready. Do you think by letting him start a preseason game Carroll's hoping to let some of the air out of Wilson's bubble (assuming he struggles)? I don't blame him for wanting to get a better "test drive" out of the kid, but he does seem to be dancing with the devil. What do you think of Flynn?