06 October 2014

The Old School Renaissance and 5e Dungeons and Dragons

There is a somewhat amusing debate underway at the RPG site over whether the OSR and 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons are (or should be, or likely will be) ‘friends’ or ‘enemies.’  (The OSR, as most readers of this blog no doubt are aware, refers to the ‘Old School Renaissance,’ which, for the purposes of this discussion at least, refers primarily to adherents of TSR-era Dungeons and Dragons and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, and their related ‘retro-clones’ and ‘near-clones,’ including the magnificent Crypts and Things.)

Having run one session of 5th edition D&D (using the Starter Set), and having looked a bit at the Players’ Handbook and the online Basic Rules, it is clear that D&D 5e is not an ‘old school’ game.  It simply has too many ‘new school’ elements for it to be that (such as ‘at will’ cantrips, full recovery of hit points with every ‘full rest,’ and so forth).

Nor do I think that it ever was intended to be an ‘old school’ game.  Rather, it was designed to be as ecumenical as possible.  Usually such efforts turn out to be horrible, in my experience, since in trying to please everyone the product in question ends up pleasing no one.  But in this case it seems that one can run D&D 5e in an more-or-less ‘old school style’ without too much difficulty – something that was not easy to do with 3e D&D in my experience (and, I gather, simply impossible with 4e).

Moreover, there is no reason why a 5e game cannot borrow elements and ideas from older editions and existing OSR games and settings, and vice versa.  At the very least, it looks quite feasible to run, say, a 1st edition AD&D module using the 5e rules without too much conversion work.  Both games belong to the same genus.  

From an ‘old school perspective,’ so to speak, I would say that 5e D&D resembles Castles and Crusades (a game that, years ago, I found to be a refreshing change from 3e) more than anything else on the market these days.  Like C&C, it can be run in an ‘old school’ way, and clearly draws much of its inspiration from classic D&D and AD&D.  Yet it also includes a number of ‘innovations’ and employs a more unified underlying structure.  Indeed, if I wanted a pithy way to describe (how I would run) 5e D&D, I would say that it is a superior version of C&C.

So D&D 5e and the OSR should be friends – or at least peaceful neighbours – and not enemies.

26 September 2014

Weekend at Loz’s

After over a year of very little gaming – nothing other than a half-dozen online sessions of AD&D – I’m about to jump back into the RPG pool in a big way.  (This is primarily the result of spending the next 11 months in Toronto.  Because of work commitments, travel, and general pathetic laziness on my part, I never got any ‘in person’ gaming going in Chicago over the past two years.)

Lawrence Whitaker (co-author of RuneQuest 6, among many other things) is hosting a few gamers at his place this weekend.  Unsurprisingly, we likely will play a couple of RQ6 games: a return to the epic Young Kingdoms campaign that Lawrence GM’ed three years ago, as well as something in his forthcoming Mythic Britain setting.  Also in the queue is a session of Trail of Cthulhu (which I’ve owned for years, but never played).  I plan to run either a session of Call of Cthulhu (7th edition) or Dungeons & Dragons (5th edition).

After this weekend I hope to write up some of my impressions of these games, especially the ones that I haven’t played or run yet (I already have played and have a very positive opinion of RQ6).

Moreover, I am looking forward to returning this blog to some semblance of life over the next year.  (It also needs a thorough updating, with respect to links, layout, etc.  It looks so 2009!)

17 September 2014

Mythic Britain Previews

Mythic Britain is a forthcoming campaign setting for RuneQuest 6.  The good folks at The Design Mechanism have released a preview of the setting material, as well as a complete adventure for the setting, "Caves of the Circind."

The preview looks great!  I can't comment on the adventure, though, as I believe that I'll be playing through it in less than two weeks.  (I'll try to write up a post-play report afterwards.)

10 September 2014

Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophers Part IV

Another classic from the brilliant Existential Comics: "Dungeons & Dragons & Philosophers: The Interdisciplinary Disaster".

I especially like the description of Georg Cantor: "He solved the problem of what happens when you do infinite damage to a monster with infinite hit points. It dies."

20 August 2014

Lovecraft at 124

On this day in 1890 H. P. Lovecraft was born.  Here are 10 things to know about the creator of the Cthulhu Mythos.

15 August 2014

Dark Dungeons, the Movie

Back in my high-school days, my friends and I used to find endlessly amusing the Jack Chick comic, "Dark Dungeons."

Now, much to my amazement, there is a film based on that comic!

(A very realistic portrayal of a typical RPG session.)

I watched the eight minute preview here, and it looks quite funny.  I plan to watch the full version, available here, in the very near future.

Certainly its portrayal of the popularity of RPGs and the people who play them is extremely realistic!

About Me

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I'm a Canadian philosopher, fantasy gamer, and procrastinator extraordinaire, who divides his time between Milwaukee WI and Toronto ON. I lived in Dublin Ireland 2005-2008, and still miss it very much! At least I still have Guinness.