Thursday, October 7, 2010

Modes of old school play

After talking to a few of my friends who are not that keen on the classic frp game setup, gaining gold and fame through spell and sword, I have been thinking of other ways to play.

Way back when I started to play rpgs, adventures were always sorted in three modes of play. Either you played dungeon adventures, wilderness adventures or city based adventures. I think that often we think of "old school" as adventuring in dungeons, even though that must not be the case. Frankly, I have no idea where that three fold model comes from, but it seem to linger on.

Those who claim not to like the old way have told me they prefer cities, and all the things you could do there. Personally being a big fan of Fritz Leiber's works of fantasy, I can see why that kind of setting would be enticing. But, what is it you do in a city you don't do in a dungeon?

Anyone who have been mugged in the dark alley ways of a medieval urban centre, or fought thugs in bars, knows that there are just as many excuses to swing a sword in a city and in a mine or abandoned temple complex. What distinguishes cities is of course the fact they are filled with people.

So, how do you play old school style among people?

I think the kind of game where you speak in funny voices, develop extravagant back stories and interpersonal relationships with NPCs are seen as quite foreign to many old schoolers. Considering we like to talk about games where the rules are more of a guideline than a crutch, older game without skills and "social combat" should be quite fitting, right? No damn skill that stop you from haggling with a merchant in downtown Waterdeep, right? Or is that so?

Having played a few of the "new school" storygames, where the mechanics is usually there to codify much of the interactions between players, and between player characters and non-player characters I wonder how that relates to games like Gamma World, T&T, OD&D and Traveller. Is something missing in those older games that makes them less useful for games in cities, where a lot of the game is about talking to people? Isn't talking to people all we do when we roleplay?
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