Monday 28 January 2019

OSR: Other Systems Required

One of the things that got me so excited when I returned to playing RPGs was that there was - and still is - so much creativity in the OSR-space. What the OSR has been very good at is producing material that can be used directly at the table. That creativity spans adventures (for example, the Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventures, the Hill Cantons stuff), settings (the Midderlands, a Red and Pleasant Land, Yoon-Suin, etc.) and tools such as the Sine Nomine sandbox 'machinery'. And that last 'name-drop' is so important - the foregrounding of the player-directed exploration game - the sandbox - over the GM-directed plotted game is one of the strengths of the OSR, to my mind. Of course, the OSR isn't immune to Sturgeon's Law -  there is a lot of dross - but there is so much absolutely excellent stuff that made use of the *common language* of class, level, HP, AC, etc.

But that doesn't mean that OSR stuff need be played using a TSR-D&D inspired 'class and level' system, does it? Now, I am a MASSIVE fan of the TSR-D&D game engine, so why might I want to use a different system? Depends on the mood and circumstances. Perhaps I want a crunchier, grittier game - in my stable of RPGs that'd involve using a BRP-based game or WFRP. Perhaps I have fewer players and want a game that can sidestep the expectation that the adventuring unit is a party with a spread a classes - in which case, as well as the above, my shelves might suggest Advanced Fighting Fantasy or perhaps even Barbarians of Lemuria. Perhaps the nature of our gaming group means that the slow level progression of TSR-D&D, or conversely, issues of substantial power increases as PCs move through the levels means that we need something with a flatter 'power curve'. Or perhaps, as GM, I just want to try out some nifty game system that isn't particularly new, but is new to me - such as Fate, PDQ, or Heroquest.

But I want to have my cake and eat it, obviously.

Now, I've run TSR-D&D/OSR material with only light adaptation using BRP (Magic World, in particular) and AFF. I know that people run 'Expert' tier (levels 4-12) D&D modules using Barbarians of Lemuria. I know that there is an amazingly thorough adaptation of Night's Dark Terror to WFRP1e over at Awesome Lies. So I know using OSR material with other systems can be done successfully: I've done this with some success, I know that you've done it with some success. But I would love to hear what people have done in this vein - what systems have you used, how did this change the game at the table, what worked, what failed, and how successful have been your attempts to use systems that diverge from the 'trad' assumptions within which I have almost exclusively gamed?


  1. Addendum: Reading a forum thread on the new WFRP board Winds of Chaos, it occurred to me that one of the reasons that I am being drawn to systems that some people describe as being more 'narrative' - such as Fate, PDQ, and Heroquest - is that they make 'modelling' such things as Dwarven grudges really easy. All kind of stuff can be incorporated into the system on a case-by-case basis.

  2. It’s one of my favorite ways to game — using a D&D milieu, but opting for alternative systems (Fate, BoL being some of my favorites). I haven’t run into any fact, it’s solved a lot of issues.

    One of my biggest peeves in running actual OSR sets is large battles. Those make me want to take a long nap. So many newer systems have ways to handle mobs, making such battles lots of fun and a dream to run. Regarding combat in general, most newer games I play streamline combat so one can squeeze in far larger chunks of the adventure into a single session. That’s a huge plus in my book.

    Having said that, there’s still charm in playing the original...tracking gear and resources, keeping torches from going out, and compulsively poking the floor plates with that ten foot pole, all are part of the experience. While I would ultimately dispense with such minutiae in any other game, it’s still fun in its own right when I want to scratch that itch.

    1. Oh yes, the D&D 'adventure engine' has a lot going for it.

      It's not so much that I mind the minutiae; in an ideal world I'd probably run WFRP or a BRP-based game with a fair bit of crunch, but it would be with players who have enough system mastery that I can concentrate only on GMing. Not that TSR-D&D is crunchy, of course, my 'other systems required' there is more down to looking for something for players who will drop in and out of a stop-start 'campaign' (or, at least, a series of adventures).

  3. Have you talked somewhere online about your experiences using Magic World for TSR/OSR stuff? I'd be really interested in hearing about that.