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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

OSR Gameplay the Right Way

OK...that title was a bit click-baity.  Alright...alot click-baity, but hey, all the cool kids are doing it.

Full disclosure right up front, I don't believe that there is a wrong way to play if you are having a good time, but I do believe there are some basic guidelines to be met before you start changing things around.

Before we dig in too deep, maybe take a quick listen to my newest podcast episode.  I'll drop it in here, but feel free to subscribe.  The main page is here

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So, back to the meat of the blog post for today.

As I browse people/blogs I often stumble across someone who really gets me thinking about how I play, and what options I have.  I like to shine lights on these folks.  Let me refer you to one Mr. Anthony Huso, who works hard to maintain  a RAW (Rules as Written) game environment.  You can check out one of his blog posts here, but don't wander off too far, I've still got stuff to say.

I applaud Anthony.  I don't think in all my years as a DM/Player I have ever been in, run, or attempted to run a game without a) Using a house rule or two right from the get-go, or 2) Fudging a die roll at some point to make things better for someone or more dramatic for everyone.  Most OSR guys (and I assume DM's of newer games) will have taken similar action.  It is, I believe, the norm.  Rulebooks are packed with so much data and so many rules that for most of us it seems unreasonable not to expect a DM to wing it now and again.

Not Anthony.  He's not having any part of this nonsense, and good on him!

I'm not knocking house rules or dice fudging.  Hell, I've done it, and in all likelihood will continue to do it.  As the DM, while I feel a certain responsibility to entertain my players I also want to enjoy the experience as well.  I deserve to enjoy the game from behind the DM screen, don't I?  House rules are often what turns A game into YOUR important factor.  Running a game RAW also differentiates a game, setting it clearly apart from what I believe are most games.

But let's not discount what Anthony does or how he does it as 'un-fun'.  If it was, I don't think he'd have kept at it for so long.  It's a bit dogmatic, and certainly requires effort and dedication on his part that I (as a DM) am unwilling to commit my gaming energy toward.  As a player, I'm intrigued.  I would certainly play in a game where the DM was using the rules as written.

What might the benefits be?

1. If you run RAW, you lose the Rules Lawyers because you ARE the Rules Lawyer!
2. Gameplay takes on a level of intensity if you know that every die roll might be your last...which Anthony addresses in his post (though certainly RAW is not the only way to introduce elements of danger, drama, or intensity into a game)
3. Uniformity of play

I'm sure there are other benefits, and negatives as well...but making lists isn't all that much fun so I'll stop there.

Playing any game RAW isn't the right or wrong way to play, it's a particular way to play.  So again, is there a WRONG way to play?

If I'm not having fun at your table, you may be DMing wrong for me (or have a DMing style I don't enjoy).

If I am in your OSR game playing a Thief, and I don't do any thiefy things and instead walk around playing my PC like a cleric, then I am playing wrong (I should have picked the Cleric class and chosen a god of Thieves, right?).  This will seem like an opinion to some folks...but it's not.  What it IS, in fact, is a player who has either not communicated well with a DM during character creation or a player who just wants to be disruptive.  Either way, it's wrong.

From Anthony's perspecive, I suppose that House Rules are the wrong way to run/play a game.

I know the mantra for many people, for many years, is that there is no wrong way to play.  I think we should be more specific.  There is no wrong way to implement the ruleset in order to engage in a manner of play that best suits you as the DM, and your players as long as everyone at the table is enjoying themselves.  It's not as short n sweet as the original, but it's a bit more clear.  Am I just being too picky here?  Maybe, but this is my blog where I talk about shit I wanna be picky about....

What did I learn from my time reading Anthony's blog?  Here's the take-away.  I thought alot about why I implement the house rules that I use.  I asked myself some questions...Is this helping or hurting the game system?  Is my house rule effective aka doing what I need it to do?  Do I know the rules well enough, and know how they interact with one another deeply enough, to feel comfortable making the change to my game?  And finally...If I turned this house rule, which I've implemented for well over 30 years, off...what would the net affect be?

Maybe it's time to re-evaluate your house rules.  Leave me some comments, let me know what you think.

As always, have fun, and Game On!

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