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80

This answer is rooted deeply in the principles of the specific Old School playstyle that the question is about, and which loosely define the OSR movement. By making mapping a part of play, you can both increase engagement with the mapping, make the time spent mapping less separate and more overlapping with the “interesting” things, and decrease the absolute ...


75

In general in play they were ignored or just treated as an abstract language with no further comment. As to where they came from, here's an answer from Gary Gygax on Dragonsfoot! As D&D was being quantified and qualified by the publication of the supplemental rules booklets. I decided that Thieves' cant should not be the only secret language. Thus ...


42

How do I tell the players "This house rule sucks and we shouldn't do it anymore?" That's exactly how you do it! Say, "This house rule sucks and I think we shouldn't do it anymore." If they object, well... then they don't mind the paperwork. If they agree, then you don't have a problem. Either way they don't feel cheated, because they're part of deciding ...


39

You Should Be Dead, But... Save-or-die mechanics are pretty awful for straight-up challenges. I mean, you wouldn't exactly get a lot of tactical thrills from a game that boils down to "Flip a coin to see if you lose," would you? But that's not the only way they've been used. Practices and opinions vary pretty widely in the OD&D/OSR community, but one ...


37

It's always easy to remember the flashiest effects of any roll. Everyone remembers rolling a 20 is a crit, right? Get into the habit of putting signs and tracks everywhere Since you mention your worlds can be a little empty, start every single random encounter as a give-more-information cue. Only then roll for effect. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but ...


27

This totally depends on how the trap is designed! As the DM, you are the authority to which you should appeal. If you think of it before the thief starts messing with the trap (and therefore not yet indicating to you how they're approaching it and possibly biasing your choice), then you can just decide what kind of trigger this trap has. However, if you ...


26

Some years ago I made just such a system; I've made it work for D&D, RuneQuest 2/3, Pendragon & Ars Magica, so I suppose it is reasonably generic. This is a "pure genetic" system, and does not allow for the effects of environment. The first step is to retrieve - or recreate - the original dice rolls involved in creating the parent characters' ...


23

The primary reasoning for this is because of Gygax's study of anthropology. Priests during the dark ages often favored staves and other blunt objects that could be used more for policing and self defense against other weapons than actual harm. Thus if used properly they would not cause bleeding (directly) but maybe severe bruising or a broken bone. EDIT 1:...


22

The only system I've seen which directly addresses this question is ACKS, which is a B/X neoclone, so it should fall under the "osr" tag. This is covered in the SRD in Chapter 7: Campaigns under the heading "Populating a Dungeon", or on page 141 of the published core rulebook. (While the specific context of that section is determining what monsters move in ...


21

Drop formal mapping by the players from the game, if the process of mapping in details is getting in the way of fun. OSR games do not mean you have to sacrifice your fun, and though it is realistically "old school" to get out the graph paper and describe the turns of every wall to the designated mapper, it is equally accurate (at least from the early 1980s ...


20

Gygax answered that questions many times. Here is the first one Google found for me. At first blush I decided that 18 was the maximum for a human, but then to make fighters more viable, and because the concpt of degrees of strength in the 18 cap followed logically, I used the percentile measurement. As for strength over 18, any such ability is superhuman ...


19

The first rulebook including it was D&D Supplement 1: Greyhawk, on page 7. This predates AD&D by several years. It also places it squarely into Gygax's purview.


19

I tend to use something like Tarot cards for things like this. One to three cards for a location, major npcs or sometimes even player characters. One just to give a general feel of what might happen. Different decks normally have slightly different pictures. Sometimes looking at the card will give me inspiration, sometime the reading of a card. The suit of ...


18

ACKS has removed the "Identify" spell but it has replaced it with explicit mechanics to identify magic items in other ways. p210 of ACKS: "Sages and other characters proficient in Magical Engineering or Loremastery can identify common or famous magical items simply through their knowledge of such things. Potions may be identified by sipping them, or by ...


18

Change the order of evaluation. Currently it is determine "random encounter" or "signs and tracks", then roll on table. The payoff of rolling on the table for mere "signs and tracks" is low. Instead, roll for the random encounter first. Then roll what kind of encounter: signs and tracks, lair, ambush, etc. So 1-3 is "roll random encounter". 4-6 means "...


17

This is more "some evidence in support of answers already given," but it won't fit in a comment. A co-worker said he had some memory of existing books talking about the Roman Catholic Church's use of Latin, and dug it up. Well, it wasn't all that buried... AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, page 24 Alignment language is a handy game tool which is not ...


17

You're asking one of the hardest questions in the industry. Tabletop game publishers are very reluctant to release firm figures, being very skittish about appearing as 'weak'; this problem has plagued the industry since I got in in the early 90s, and doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon. Also, the numbers you report are self-reported, which is not ...


16

Before you can place a town or city, you must first have a world to place it in. When building your world you will need to determine general aspects that apply to your entire world, such as gods and their religions, races and their cultures, empires and their locations and other questions beyond the scope of this question. Once you have your world, you then ...


16

Take a spare 6-sided die. If you don't have one, buy a cheap one at a dollar store. Print out two monster footprint icons like these and one monster icon like this. Cut out the icons into small squares and glue them to the appropriate sides of your die. Optionally, glue blank pieces of paper to sides 4, 5, and 6. Use the die only for monster encounter rolls.


15

It appears that you have conflicting interests: a lack of permanent character death, but a real threat of death which involves real problems. There are no obvious ways to reconcile these two points. An easy way out of permanent character death reduces the problems associated with dying, and having a god decide to resurrect a player seems too much like Deus ...


15

Perhaps this exists in earlier games, but Dungeon Crawl Classics, first published in 2012, makes this explicit. Dungeon Crawl Classics, page 378 (4th printing) Never describe a monster using a specific noun (e.g., “goblin” or “orc”). Always describe a monster using physical characteristics (e.g., “a four-foot-tall man-like creature with green ...


14

Yes. in my experience both Basic AD&D and OD&D (1st and 2nd) run faster than 3e/3.5 and 4e and indeed PF. Why? Combat Extra feats, manoeuvring and counting squares, attacks of opportunity (and trying to avoid them) adding up multiple bonuses from powers/abilities (bards songs, situational, etc) all work to slow down combat. Yes the to hit DC's are ...


14

BX doesn't put the same weight on the ability scores as you appear to, so beware that adding an ability score advancement mechanic will redirect some of your players motivations away from looking for harder-to-achieve bonuses to their effectiveness. On the other hand, you don't have to worry much about breaking the balance of the game with this, because ...


14

This is a decision that rests entirely with you as DM and the answer should be whatever provides the most fun with the least work and cognitive dissonance. You actually have the answer in your question: "my restocking results are pretty oppressive, as in: Lots of new monsters and treasure in cleared areas, which is something I want to avoid." Therefore the ...


11

Give them something better. If you're removing the rule because it's not worth it, why not just replace it with something that is worth it? That way they won't feel cheated. Like, every two levels, pick an ability score. Roll 3d6, and if it's higher than your current score, it goes up by one. Lets you improve your crappy scores, but prevents you from ...


11

In D&D next, Experience and tracking experience is just one way to play. You can track XP through killing monsters, or through advancement in plot. Or you can not track XP at all. While they will not have any modules published which will be balanced around treasure or gold equaling XP, you can easily implement that method of counting, since the game ...


11

I like the definition of OSR gaming presented by Matthew Finch in "A Primer For Old School Gaming," available in pdf for free from Lulu. In short, he refers to four major conceits ("Zen Moments") that define old school gaming. Rulings, Not Rules - GM-driven world interpretation over a law degree Player Skill, not Character Abilities Heroic, not Superhero - ...


10

There are hundreds of languages in daily use throughout the real world, but the syntax, words, and omissions of terms reflect the worldviews of the users. As simple examples, consider the Russian discourtesy toward indefinite articles, use of tonalities in Sinitic tongues, and words denoting relations in various languages (can you say 'brother-in-law' in a ...


10

If the creatures in a location are of all of one faction, the following are some possibilities: They renew their control over the location, and beef up their defenses. They abandon the location, and go cause trouble elsewhere (new adventure hook!). Some new, stronger faction moves in and wipes them out (or absorbs them to use as cannon fodder slaves) and ...


10

Moldvay is great... in part because it's short. Tom and I spoke at some length about the 'tack' he would take. I later used a lot of ideas that he omitted because he just didn't have room. The following will address the BECMI treatment, being the most detailed expansion of Moldvay's data. At this distance (almost 30 years), most players consider the two ...


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