Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Old School Gaming With Savage Worlds...

Good Morning, All:

Old School is an elusive term, that obviously means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For some, it means using only a certain subset of rules systems, such as OD&D or AD&D First Edition (although even that may be pushing it for some people). For others, such as myself, Old School has little to do with a specific game system, and everything to do with a particular feel to your gaming experience. I have been running a Savage Worlds fantasy campaign for over two years now, and I would classify it as an Old School game, simply because of the feel of the gaming experience.

The campaign has many of the classic organizational elements most people associate with Old School games. Savage Worlds is a great gaming system, a concise yet complete rules set that empowers great roleplay. (You can't beat a $10 rulebook that gives you everything you need to run a campaign of multiple genres in 160 pages.) My homebrew setting of Kintara was set up in a sandbox fashion. The monsters encountered by the PCs are fairly classic, and the players are playing fairly standard archetypes. Adventures are modular and somewhat episodic. Creative thought and alternate solutions are rewarded, and there's a decent balance between combat and non-combat encounters. There's strong character development that stems more from the roleplay than the character's stats, although the stats do help nudge the players in certain directions (as you define a few select hindrances for your character that provides for roleplay opportunities that grow and evolve as the character gains depth.) We've explored dungeons, ruins, political intrigue, sieges, mass battles, quests, planar exploration, retrieving a soul from the depths of the Infernus, saving temples and villages, destroying unholy artifacts, and all kinds of wondrous and fantastic adventures over the course of the campaign.

I looked at the campaign as a chance to stop worrying and return to the kind of gaming I used to do back in late high school and in college. Sure, this time around, I'm a bit more polished as a Gamemaster, and I have better resources at my disposal, including previous work from other campaigns I could build on conceptually. I took inspiration from classic modules, but I also built on stories told in classic literature, filing off the serial numbers, changing the names and then letting the players direct the story once I presented the basic setup to them. I intentionally looked at adventures in a new light for me, making them modular and short instead of the long, extended story arcs that I used to follow. I related my adventures by backstory, and let the players' comments, interests and actions direct their future moreso than a railroaded plot. It was a great experience for me, and I will use the lessons I've learned here to inform my future GMing efforts. Simply put, I loved the experience I've had with this game, and I look forward to continuing it with future campaigns.

The rules light nature of Savage Worlds aided me a lot in these endeavours. The mechanics are simple enough to collect on one page and explain in five minutes. The task resolution mechanic that governs the game made it easy to handle any scenario that came up, even if there wasn't a rule already written for a given circumstance. Given that I ran over 400 sessions of 3E/D20 System before burning out, I can't help but use some of the thought processes I developed with that to resolve some of the situations. However, I have found myself rolling back to my early AD&D years (I came in too late for OD&D), and that opened up some doors I'd closed on adventure design and scenario creation.

In the end, it doesn't matter to me whether someone would call my current campaign an Old School game or simply a fun fantasy campaign. Either way, my players and I have had a blast with the game, and it brought me to the community of Old School gamers where I feel I belong. I call it Old School, by my own experiential definition, and I think that's good enough for me.



James said...

An interesting post.

My group has been running with more or less the same players for around 15 years (although we went through a 3 year break somwhere in there). We used to play under our original DM in a free-form 'sand box' style, where the DM would dangle several adventure hooks in front of us and we'd follow whatever suited our whim and ambition.

Our present DM is more of the "adventure path" style, where there is a relatively pre-defined sequence of adventures. We are playing under 3.5 rules now too.

I think I prefer the earlier style of play where the chanllenges could be overcome by team work, good ideas and role playing rather than having the most optimal character build.

It's why I really like your MyD20Lite system - it gives a little of the modern innovations, but has at its basis the earlier versions of D&D that I prefered.

Flynn said...

Thank you for your comments. While I wrote MyD20 Lite mainly for my own personal gaming, and as a vehicle to get back my interest in D20-based games, I am greatly pleased to know that others enjoy it as well.

With Regards,