Saturday, January 2, 2010

Old School. More than a feeling?

Some of you might have read Grognardia a short while ago, where a quote from Ken St. Andre was commented upon. I liked it myself and nodded in agreement until I thought some more.

If this snippet of wisdom from Ken St. Andre should work in play, you would have to train your players!

I have tried to use dopplegangers as a monster in play. It failed miserably, since the players didn't trust nobody. Guess what happened when they found someone chained in a dungeon asked to be freed? Guess how likely they would have been to act like Ken suggests?

In order to have your players try to talk themselves out of troubles instead of just charging into a TPK, they need to be trained to do it. Old School play is not just a feeling, and this proves it. Any kind of dungeon dressing, or any kind of "first edition" monster collection can be brought to the table without any old school play happening.

Few xp for monsters but much xp for gold is an excellent way to achieve the training I'm talking about. I'm beginning to wonder this was removed from T&T? Yes, it was in there back in the beginning. Ken once mentioned it was taken out, so unless I misunderstood him it should have been in there.


  1. I'd say "untrained." New players, in my experience, are happy to chat with anyone who looks like they might want to talk. It's the old hands who have learned that nothing good will come of thinking outside the box and kill anything that moves.

    Beyond that, yeah, a great way to encourage this behavior is a combination of XP-for-gold, combat that scares the players, and monsters that are outside of their weight-class but willing to talk. Opportunities to rescue folks that reward the players rather than punish them also probably help -- no doppelgangers in the current campaign yet, but I'd fall for one hard because the current track record of rescues is 100% ridiculously loyal follower.

  2. Really? Amazing! With that track record I'd probably fall for one myself. Loyal followers are few and far between in my experience.

    Hmmm. Maybe you have a point about un-training as well. Depending on experience that might be the case as well.

    I asked Ken about how it used to work in T&T, and up until 4th ed it was gold for xp, but it turned into monte haul gaming to ridiculous extents and he changed it. There seems to be problematic to get the effect I want. ;)

  3. One good compromise on xp for treasure is to only give xp for treasure spent on "wine, women, and song" -- that is spending treasure in ways that do nothing to help the characters, party, etc.

  4. There's only been one rescue like that (of someone my character didn't already know, anyway) so far, but between the follower in question being best friends with another one, and the reputation it and similarly insane rescue attempts have given my character, totally worth it.

    My DM in that game, Trollsmyth, requires that we spend treasure to get XP from it, which has worked out pretty well so far but we're only at level 2 because no one's paying that much attention to XP. :P By the time we hit Monty Haul territory he'll have switched to the alternative system of XP he's been talking about anyway because the campaign will be really different, but XP-for-gold is a great way to start out a campaign even if you don't stick with it all the way through.

  5. Changing the xp award system mid game is something I've never heard of before!

    Considering how gold for xp (and spend the money) meme seem to repeat itself, I guess it has some traction.

  6. @Oddysey - I wonder if new players seem more willing to talk to just about anybody because they are coming in from new school or computer games, where if someone is prepared to engage in conversation, it's because they have an Important Piece of Information to impart, and the GM or computer needs the PCs to have that Piece of Information to keep on the railroad.

    The biggest problem I had with xp for gold in the olden days was how to carry the damn stuff - one character and forty mules, laden with GPs. Strangely enough, the DM didn't seem to worry about encumbrance rules after 2nd level.

  7. Yet more good arguments for gp=xp, and for gp=xp only when spent.

  8. @Daddy Grognard - When I say "new" I'm talking about people who are new to tabletop RPGs entirely. The ones I've introduced to LL and S&W from, say, 3.5 D&D, haven't been particularly talky or fighty, although they do tend to be a lot cockier than the people I introduce, and have seen introduced, directly to an older version. They tend to assume that if a monster is in the game, they can kill it.

    As far as video games go . . . there might be a correlation there, but it might very well be the opposite of the mechanism you've described. Some folks are talkier once they hit the table because they *can* be -- if they're just in the mood to fight stuff and get the next plot token they'll go play a video game. They go to the table for a more creative, interactive experience.

  9. That's an interesting point in the difference between the medium of a rpg and a computer game. Maybe we just don't seem to get that point across often enough.

  10. I kind of like the idea of xp for cash spent during an adventure. Somehow, that never occurred to me in the early days of role-playing, and perhaps add it as an incentive to roleplaying. If you roleplay the gold spent as a significant part of the adventure, then xp is awarded. If you just show up with a list of stuff bought before the adventure starts, no xp. I like that.
    --Ken St. Andre

  11. atroll: Very interesting idea. But I'm one of those folks who enjoys just roleplaying shopping anyway, so that'd mean easy XP for me. ;) Depending on the player group I might also extend that principle to players who handed me a *detailed* list of stuff that they bought, (what color/style are their clothes, etc.) or who noted down where everything is on their character's person.


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