As Patrick Stuart notes, BX D&D is core to the OSR. It has clarity, it has concision, and it is very clearly “D&D”. It has a clear modern presentation in Old School Essentials. Sadly, it has some serious problems. Here are some fixes. Maybe later there will be more.
First, up the amount of gold needed to advance in level is absurd, unless you want advancement to be ponderous. I’ve mostly concerned myself with how to meet that demand, but if you read my articles about it you’ll find links that suggest other solutions. (the comments on those links are often good).
Specifically, look at the intro to Tomb of the Serpent Kings — “Treasure amounts are balanced around the idea that 200gp is enough to level a single character”. That’s likely to be my model going forwards.
If you’re not writing adventures for others, I’d suggest you (a) give more than one xp per gp or (b) rescale all the level charts so they give the pace you want.
It’s not clear at all, in OSE or otherwise, how thief skills relate to the (obvious) ability of non-thieves to do those same things. James V West has about twelve ways to fix that — start reading at http://doomslakers.blogspot.com/2019/01/once-again-with-thieves.html.
Requiring “Read Magic” to use scrolls is excessive. Give Read Magic as an unlimited-use ability to all Magic Users — http://doomslakers.blogspot.com/2020/03/read-that-magic.html.
Landmark, hidden, secret — a classification scheme for information in game situations that might help us better decide what to tell players, and when — https://diyanddragons.blogspot.com/2019/10/landmark-hidden-secret.html
Michael Prescott explains why you probably don’t need to use the OGL, and probably would be unwise to use the DM’s Guild or similar DriveThruRPG programs. “… That last one is so mind-bendingly overreaching that it’s comical. You’re giving them permission to negotiate for you, with themselves. It’s like the devil wrote it.” — http://blog.trilemma.com/2019/10/compatible-with-dungeons-dragons.html
It looks like real-world archery is much harder at range than typical rpg archery. Given that long-range missile fire is hard to make fun, it might be worth trying some harsher range modifiers — https://deltasdnd.blogspot.com/2011/03/basic-d-on-archery.html
Justin Alexander has a good article on why GMs shouldn’t fudge rules and die rolls — https://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/43708/roleplaying-games/gm-dont-list-9-fudging. He doesn’t mention that fudging subtly corrupts you, giving you a sordid aura and making you more likely to do murders, but I presume we all know that by now.
Alexander also has a has a plausible conjecture for why most realm/business/tavern management etc subsystems fail — because they tend to be closed systems, rather than integrating naturally with the main loop of the game — https://twitter.com/hexcrawl/status/1185260871062183936?s=09
Finally, Patrick Stuart has been looking at the OSR-space and has concluded that BX/Moldvay D&D is the common language that makes most of it work — http://falsemachine.blogspot.com/2019/11/the-bx-commons.html. This aligns with my experience — I see reddit and blog posts by people playing OD&D, but they’re rarely the people who are writing things I’m interested in. And I don’t see much about Holmes, Mentzer or AD&D at all.
I am writing some OSR-type D&D adventures that I intend to publish, so I have gone looking for advice on doing that. Below, I have collected links. I have also included some summaries, but honestly in the eyes of posterity they are more for my benefit in writing them than for you in reading them.
How I Write an Adventure, by Arnold K
That’s prosaic, principled, but realistic — I can believe he actually works like that. My summary:
- Write ten adventures at once, gathering and filing ideas as they come to you
- Run them early — that will give you ideas and show you problems
- Have a (short) list of themes, be strict about cutting stuff that doesn’t fit
- Don’t commit to anything until late on, especially not to a specific map
- Focus on making interesting snippets – you can integrate them later
- Iterate your design, culling weak (or unthematic) bits ruthlessly
How I Make an Adventure by Patrick Stuart
Continue reading “Collected advice on adventure design”