What I Like About Old School & New School Approaches to RPGs

I am interested in both the old school and the new school when it comes to tabletop RPGs. I am not interested in in “badmouthing” one or the other, rather I want to take the best of both worlds to create the best possible gaming experience.

I find that a lot of the old school D&D stuff has a sense of wonder / the unusual to it. A large portion of this has to do with the influence of the Appendx N books to Gary Gygax. The lines between science fiction and fantasy, which are quite defined today, were not as well defined in the 1970s. Additionally, I like the idea of interaction within a dungeon. Maybe some of the inhabitants do not want to blindly attack you. Perhaps, some will want to talk and help you (if you do them a favor). This allows for some truly unusual situations to appear in play. For example, a party could ally with some goblins to get a treasure from a group of orcs. Then, the party could betray the goblins and take the treasure for themselves!

This does not seem to be the norm today. There are exceptions, of course, but I am painting with broad strokes right now. New school adventures seem to be a little more linear and the story is given to the players, with combat-oriented dungeons rather than the characters driving the story through their actions within the dungeon. (Of course, I am using the term “dungeon” loosely. A “dungeon” could be an underground tomb, a castle in the sky, an alternate dimension, or something stranger.)

With all this pining for the days of yore, it may seem like I need to be playing old school D&D or one of its clones (ACKS, LotFP, etc). However, there are some things I like about new school role-playing games (3.X, Pathfinder, 5th Edition D&D).

I enjoy the class options and customization available in the new school. In moderation, I even like skill checks, as long as the entire campaign / module is 100% dependent on making that DC 20 Survival check to follow tracks! It allows for each new character to feel brand new. I like that the mechanics are a bit more streamlined (while most of my GM-ing experience is 3.X and Pathfinder, I find myself drawn to 5th edition D&D for the streamlined (but not dumbed-down) mechanics…as well as the shorter monster stat blocks.

In summary, what I am saying is that in general I like the “fluff” of an old school adventure, but the “crunch” of the new school. Of course all of this must be tempered with what my players actually want to play. Luckily, my players want to create their own story and do more than combat in a series of linear hallways. They want social interaction and skill checks for doing adventurous things.

This will ultimately mean a lot of work for me to find create the kind of environment that the players will enjoy, but I am up for the challenge. Ultimately, it will be worth it if the players enjoy it.

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