Dieser Artikel stammt von Matt Flinch, dem Autor des Retro-RPGs Swords&Wizardry, und erschien ursprünglich im Knights&Knaves-Forum, ist aber seitdem schon an verschiedensten Stellen im englischsprachigen Netz diskutiert worden. Ich stelle ihn einfach erst einmal unkommentiert zur Diskussion. Ich bin mal besonders gespannt was Zornhau dazu meint, der stets dabei ist von der guten alten Zeit der Name Levels und der anderen Oldschool-Errungenschaften zu schwärmen, aber es kann auch sonst von jedem darüber gesprochen werden. Was davon trifft auf Oldschool-Spiel zu, und was nicht? Was deckt sich mit eurer Art zu spielen, und was darin ist ein absolutes No-Go? Habt ihr sonst Anmerkungen dazu? Quick Primer for Old School Gaming This booklet is an introduction to “old school” gaming, designed especially for anyone who started playing fantasy role-playing games after, say, the year 2000 – but it’s also for longer-time players who have become adjusted to modern styles of role-playing over the years. If you want to try a one-shot session of 0e using the free Swords & Wizardry rules, just printing the rules and starting to play as you normally do will produce a fairly pathetic gaming session – you’ll decide that 0e is just missing all kinds of important rules. You will have played a game where no situations had any sort of guidance, and you just imported rules from your normal game to fill in the gaps. This booklet is intended to fill the role of an experienced referee who’s actually played 0e – someone who can explain how the rules are put to use, not just what they are. For the Players and the Referee: Playing an old school game is very different from modern games where there are rules covering many specific situations. Read these rules as if they are the rules of a completely new role-playing game you’ve never seen before; keep in mind what you think is “missing” isn’t there on purpose; and remember that the GM has no obligation to be “fair,” just relatively impartial. First Zen Moment: Rulings, not Rules The biggest key to understanding “old school” gaming is like a Zen moment: much of the time, you don’t use a rule, you just use a ruling. It’s easy to understand that sentence, but it takes a flash of insight to really “get it.” I’m not saying that you’re going to have a flash of liking it. You might hate it. What I’m saying is that it’s a big intuitive leap from modern games to understand how this works. The players can describe any action, without needing to look at a character sheet to see if they “can” do it. The GM uses common sense or makes an ad-hoc ruling, and then the game moves on. This is why characters have so few numbers on the character sheet, and why they have so few specified abilities. Many of the things that are “die roll” challenges in modern gaming (disarming a trap, for example) are handled by observation, thinking, and experimentation in old-style games. Getting through obstacles is more “hands-on” than you’re probably used to. A simple example: by tradition, many pit traps in 0e are treated as follows. They can be detected easily, by probing ahead with a 10ft pole. If you step onto one, there is a 1 in 6 chance that the pit trap will open. And that’s all there is to it. Thieves – if the game even uses thieves as a character class – don’t spot them unless specifically checking, and they don’t disarm. Or say for instance you want your fighter to leap from a high ledge to the ground, both hands gripped tightly around the hilt of his sword to drive it deep into the back of the goblin below, who’s about to club the party’s cleric from behind. What do you do? You simply tell the referee what you want to do. Then the referee will probably ask you to roll to hit. If you hit, you do damage. You might even do extra damage because of your weight behind the blow. That will be for the DM to determine. If you are a ways off the ground you might have to check to see if you get hurt yourself – and maybe not, if you roll to hit well enough. On the other hand, the referee might decide that you automatically hit the goblin since you’re attacking from behind and from above, but not give you extra damage. However the referee decides the exact die rolls and numbers, it’s obvious that you’re going to have some sort of powerful attack here, even though you don’t have a specific “feat” or “skill” for this kind of maneuver written on your character sheet. Second Zen Moment: Forget “Fair.” A good GM is impartial, neither trying to favor the party nor the opposition. Beyond that, the party has no right to always encounter monsters they can defeat, no right to always encounter traps they can disarm, no right to invoke a particular rule from the books, and no right to a die roll in every particular circumstance. It is the GM’s game, and he calls the shots. It’s much less like a game of chess, and much more like a game of storytelling with dice. The only right the players have – and it’s a big one – the GM should never, ever, tell a player what the player’s character does. That’s the player’s decision. Unless the character is under a charm, or whatever, the player makes the decisions. With all the powers an old-style GM has, it is even more important not to “railroad” the game than it is in modern games. Third Zen Moment: Heroic, not Superhero Old School games have a human-sized scale, not a super-powered scale. At first level, adventurers are barely more capable than a regular person. They live by their wits. By the way, characters with low intelligence are still expected to be played intelligently as a matter of player skill. The player’s skill is the character’s guardian angel – call it the character’s luck or intuitions, or whatever makes sense to you, but you don’t cut back on your skill as a player just because the character has a low intelligence. It’s a game of skill. But back to the Zen moment. Even as characters rise to the heights of power, they aren’t picking up super-abilities or high ability scores. Truly high-level characters have precious items accumulated over a career of adventuring; they usually have some measure of political power, at least a stronghold. They are deadly when facing normal opponents … but they aren’t invincible. Old school gaming (and again, this is a matter of taste) is the fantasy of taking a guy without tremendous powers – a guy much like yourself but somewhat stronger, or with slight magic powers – and becoming a king or a feared sorcerer over time. It’s not about a guy who can, at the start of the game, take on ten club-wielding peasants at once. It’s got a real-world, gritty starting point. And your character isn’t personally ever going to become stronger than a dragon. At higher levels, he may be able to kill a dragon with his sword or with spells, but never by grabbing its throat and strangling it in a one-on-one test of strength. To make a comic-book analogy, characters don’t become Superman; they become Batman. And they don’t start as Batman – Batman is the pinnacle. He’s a bit faster than normal, a bit stronger than normal, he’s got a lot of cash, a Bat Cave, a butler, a henchman (Robin) and cool gadgets. But he can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound. If you don’t get a feeling of achievement with Batman instead of Superman as the goal, the old school gaming style probably isn’t right for your vision of what makes good and exciting fantasy. Old school gaming is about the triumph of the little guy into an epic hero, not the development of an epic hero into a superhuman being. There’s nothing wrong with the latter, it’s just that old-style fantasy matches up with the former. Fourth Zen Moment: Game balance a minor factor Game Balance is not the all-important measure of all things in old-style gaming. At any given time, one character may very well be more powerful than the rest (the experience tables cause some character classes to level up earlier than others). A few adventures later, the tables will turn as other characters level up – a different character often takes the limelight for a while. This is a co-operative game played among friends, not a competition to have the most powerful character. The competition is against the fantasy world, not against the other players and not against the referee. Focusing heavily on “Game balance” is a method for highly exact, competitive games. It’s okay to be inexact and approximate with game balance, as long as the boat’s not in danger of completely capsizing. For the Game Master As the Game Master, you’ve got to wrap your head around those Zen moments – at least a little bit – before refereeing a game using the 0e rules, or Swords & Wizardry, or whatever game you’ve chosen to try out. You’re the most important factor in making sure the game is actually the old-style game you want to try out: if you don’t at least get a basic grasp of those four ideas then what you run will just be a modern-style game without enough rules. Remember: You are the rulebook. There is no other rulebook. Make it fast, make it colorful, and make it full of decisions for the players. Resource management: It’s important to realize that old-style gaming is a game that involves a lot of “resource management.” Your party has a finite number of spells, a finite amount of food, a finite amount of torches, and a finite amount of damage that it can absorb. Light sources and food become less important at higher levels, but spells and hit points are always vital commodities that you’ve got to keep an eye upon. Some modern-style gamers don’t like this part of a role-playing game, thinking that it’s not adventurous to be worrying about how long the torches will burn, and that it’s silly for a magic-user to use one spell and then be “useless” for the rest of the adventure. Just take it on faith for a moment that this is an important and exciting part of old-style gaming. It’s one of those things that if it’s done right adds lots of tension and excitement. It might still not be your cup of tea – there are many different ways to enjoy fantasy gaming – but to really experience the “old-style” manner of play, this is pretty important. It comes back to that earlier Zen Moment about how old-style gaming is built on a human scale, not on a superhuman scale. Having to worry about things like whether the torches are going to run out emphasizes the experience of being a “regular person” exploring a very dark and very dangerous place where people really don’t belong. Gaining the ability to use magical light and to create food supplies is an achievement – an achievement too low to register on the modern-style, superhuman scale of things perhaps, but for a “regular guy” type of adventurer it’s a milestone. So, here’s how you run a game where resource management is a significant factor. The challenge to the players is to get where they want to go (places with piles of gold, they hope) without having to retreat. There’s a cost to retreating: perhaps they can barely afford their upkeep at the local inn; perhaps their reward from the local baron is reduced if they can’t achieve the mission within a certain number of days; perhaps there’s a risk that a hostage will be killed; perhaps there’s another adventuring party that’s trying to reach the same treasure. In other words, there’s also got to be a race against time. It might not be a fast race, and it might not have an overwhelming sense of urgency to it, but there’s got to be a race against time. Otherwise, yes, managing resources isn’t particularly fun – it’s unnecessary bookkeeping. The combination of race against time against depleting resources is a very powerful source of drama and tension. It’s one of the driving forces of old-style gaming. At low level, the race against time is often just to have enough money to scrape by: as the GM, you set some amount of money that they’re spending per day or per week. If they want to scrimp and save let them, but constantly describe the rats in their foul lodgings, the bland porridge they’re eating, the condescending attitude of villagers who see the characters failing to succeed – they’ll speed up their efforts. At higher levels, creating the race against time requires a bit more creativity on your part – especially because you don’t want to make it into something that forces the players into any particular adventure. The players should always have control over what their characters can do, so you’ve got to avoid overusing the whole “the king will have you executed if you don’t rescue the princess” sort of adventure hook. Combat is abstract. One criticism that’s often leveled against old-style gaming is that it’s boring to just have a series of: “I roll a d20. Miss. I roll a d20. Hit. I roll a d20. Miss. I roll a d20. Miss.” It’s true that from time to time the “tape” of an old-style combat is exactly like this. Some combats are unimportant enough that no one bothers to try anything particularly unusual, and if there’s not a fumble or a critical hit, and the party doesn’t get into hot water then this kind of combat won’t use much tactical thinking on anyone’s part. So why even have it? Because every quick, less-significant combat uses up resources. And when I say quick, I mean very, very quick. In modern games, where combat contains special moves and lots of rules, combat takes up lots of time. An “insignificant” combat is a complete waste of gaming time. In older rules, a small combat can take five minutes or less. So small combats work very well as a way of depleting those precious resources in a race against time. The players will actually seek to avoid minor combats when there’s not much treasure involved. They’re looking for the lairs and the treasure troves, not seeking to kill everything that crosses their path. The classic old-style adventure contains “wandering monsters” that can randomly run into and attack the party, and some modern gamers see this as arbitrary. It’s not. It’s another instance of running a race against time – if the characters aren’t smart and fast in getting to the lairs and troves, if they shilly-shally and wander, they’re going to lose hit points and spells fighting wandering monsters who carry virtually no treasure. This is also, by the way, why older-style games award experience points for gaining treasure as well as for killing monsters. If killing monsters is the only way to gain experience points, then one monster’s pretty much the same as another – the players don’t have much of an incentive to avoid combat. When treasure is the best source of experience points and there’s a race against time, the players have every incentive to use all their skill and creativity to avoid encounters that drain their resources. They’ve got to press on to the mission before they become too weak to keep going. So that’s why combat is abstract, or at least it’s one reason. Also, of course, fast combat mimics the pace of combat – in more complex games, players may have to sit for a while, contemplating the next “move” like a chess game. I’ve heard of egg timers being used to limit thinking time. With old-style, abstract combat, this just doesn’t happen (not often, anyway). Abstract combat also opens the door for one of the things that’s most important about old-style gaming – the freewheeling feel of “anything goes.” In old-style combat, a player can describe and attempt virtually anything he can think of. He doesn’t need to have any sort of game-defined ability to do it. He can try to slide on the ground between opponents, swing from a chandelier and chop at a distant foe, taunt an opponent into running over a pit trap … whatever he wants to try. That doesn’t, of course, mean that he’ll succeed. It’s your job to handle these attempts colorfully and fairly, choosing whatever probability you think is the right one and rolling some dice. Sometimes you’ll enforce common sense and roll that one in 10,000 chance. When the players truly understand that their characters’ actions aren’t constrained by the lack of a specific ability, you’ll find that combat becomes quite interesting. It’s also your job to inject events that wouldn’t occur within the format of a specific set of rules for what happens during combat. “You rolled a 1. Your sword goes flying.” “You rolled a 1. You trip and fall.” “You rolled a 1. Your sword sticks into a crack in the floor.” “Hey, you rolled a 20. You spin around and gain an extra attack.” Hey, you rolled a 20. You slay the orc, kick his body off your sword, and blood spatters into the eyes of one of the orcs behind him.” “Hey, you rolled a 20. You knock his sword out of his hand even though he’s not killed.” That’s just a set of examples for the various ways you could handle natural rolls of 1 or 20 without the constraint of specific rules. Even when the rolls aren’t unusual, you keep up a running picture of what’s happening. Not all the time – the players have their own mental picture of what’s happening, and you don’t want to step on their imaginations. But you’re also able to have monsters doing unexpected things – throwing a bench in the attempt to knock down two characters at once, monsters that try to swing by chandeliers, and other such challenges that don’t often surface in games with tighter rules. Try to put some “toys” into the combat areas some of the time: benches, places where you can fight from the high ground, slippery patches, etc. Because of the speed of the abstract combat system, unusual tricks by the players and monsters don’t cause delays while the rules are consulted. It’s all you – you are the rulebook.