Old School Renaissance Like a Fucking Boss (system neutral)

Old School Renaissance Like a Fucking Boss (system neutral)

This pdf clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/advertisement, leaving us with 7 pages of content – oh, and it is FREE.

 

Which is also why I’ll diverge from my usual reviewing-template a bit: If you’re interested, check it out. It costs you literally nothing, and isn’t even PWYW.

 

What is this, and why did I tag it as “system neutral” instead of as “OSR”? Well, in short, this can be considered to be Venger’s 37-rule (+rule 0) manifesto for running games, a distilled array of pieces of GM-advice, aesthetics and tricks, and it genuinely is SUEFUL. It is not a book that will blow away veterans, but it is a great little pdf to flip open once in a while to refocus. When you read “Your NPC sucks” as a rule title to make you recall that you shouldn’t get too attached or hog the PC’s spotlight, the impact is immediate and efficient. Keeping the foreshadowing high, running with themes, milking what works and the PC’s idea, retaining of mysteries, etc. – this is not world-shaking, but the collection of these rules is indeed helpful.

 

And it is helpful, as a whole, beyond the confines of the OSR. Sure, rolling just ONCE is not always possible in more rules-heavy games, and abstract combat or getting slain PCs back in? Also not always feasible in a speedy manner. However, letting the player of a slain PC play an NPC for a while? Totally possible. That’s why you have those NPCs stats, right? In short: The vast majority of the rules apply beyond the confines of the OSR and its aesthetics.

 

That being said, there is one instance here I have to poke fun at: The trouble-shooting section for too long combats notes to keep healing, both natural and magical, in check, when ridiculous infinite healing exploits that break the attrition and resource management tenets  is exactly the main issue I’ve had with the last couple of installments of Venger’s Crimson Dragon Slayer systems- Sir, please listen to your own advice, it is sound. 😉

 

That aside, this is a neat little booklet, and it won’t hurt to read it as a refresher, regardless how experienced a GM you are. And for FREE? Heck yeah. 5 stars.

 

You can get this pdf for FREE here!

 

As an aside: Venger’s massive KS-adventure for Cha’alt was upgraded to 128 pages, and will be offset printed by Friesens! The KS only has 27 hours to go as per the writing of this review, so if you want in on one of these strictly limited books, act now! You can find the kickstarter for Fuchsia Malaise here!

 

Enjoying my reviews? Please consider leaving a donation, or joining my patreon here!

Endzeitgeist out.

Comments

You may also like...

5 Responses

  1. Care for a fun experiment / playtest?

    Let’s do a 5-minute Roll20 or 10 email posts (for each of us) combat scene. You can play a cleric with 2 allies against 5 goblins. I’ll GM. Then we’ll see if the cleric is broken or not.

    Also, thanks for the review and shout-out, hoss!

    • Thilo Graf says:

      Your suggestions for the frame of the playtest make clear that you do not understand, or do not want to understand, the root of the issue.

      The very foundation of the mathematic baselines and narrative tensions underlying any D&D-adjacent game are based on a degree of tactics and resource-attrition to some degree or another.

      Particularly the OSR tradition uses this and considers it to be a virtue and one of the pillars of player skill. Same goes for 5e.

      Your game professes to be based on both for branding, but purposefully flaunts the very central pillar on which this is based.

      As a direct consequence, your infinite healing clerics and, as a consequence, infinite casting wizards are BROKEN because they invalidate the central baseline.

      You *can* call that deliberate and skew encounter-difficulty to make (almost) every encounter hinge on nigh annihilation (see what Cha’alt’s Black Pyramid often does), only to have everyone miraculously regain all resources after the encounter.

      However: Encounters are not tied to time in-game; they make no sense as a metric in-game.
      Doing so invalidates any notion of survival struggle or danger…beyond excessive damage output and save-or-suck.

      That might work for a small one-shot, sure. It wrecks any long-term appeal of your rules-lite games, though…because you don’t ever really are rewarded for doing anything but throwing your best damage at the enemy as fast as possible. Because you either are fine, or you’re dead.

      You’re walking into a dead-end for design and tension, and have been for some time. And I really think that you’re better than that.

      In the long run?
      You can’t erect a system with any degree of longevity on it, because this relegates EVERY single challenge to being just a different coat of paint over the same metrics. Unless the players are super easy to please, this “oh, we almost died to damage/oh, some died to save or suck – oh well, we’re good now!” as the only type of danger to be encountered EVERY ENCOUNTER will turn stale very fast.

      Infinite healing powering infinite spellcasting has, AUTOMATICALLY, this long-term effect.

      • Your contention that “I don’t understand” or my game “flaunts the very central pillar” smacks of badwrongfun. Rather than what I’d call macro-tension that might be better suited to the long haul of a extensive campaign, my focus is micro-tension; certainly better suited to one-shots and shorter campaigns. You sacrifice one for the other. That means in order to fulfill the one, you neglect the other. Sure, some try to have it both ways, but we both know that’s not easy to find, let alone maintain.

        Essentially, you’re treating combat like some kind of gritty and desperate sport, but still a sport. All things must be in alignment or balanced, uphill and against the current, so combat turns into a long-game of pick-your-poison suffering and resource management masturbation.

        Crimson Dragon Slayer D20 treats combat as war, but a potentially winnable war focused on the immediate, the here and now. I have no interest in incentivizing the 5-minute workday or making certain classes suck because the rules treat them as one-hit wonders… but awesome after level 5.

        I’ve allowed everyone to have a valuable role, a seat at the proverbial table, regarding combat. That’s one of my favorite things about the OSR. It’s not so rooted in old school play-styles from decades past that it can’t innovate depending on the creator’s design goals.

        There are some things that just don’t work for me regarding early D&D, that’s why I came up with my own thing. If I merely wanted to play the game as it was played back in 1980, I would just play B/X and call it a day. Your acting like my personal revelation is nothing aside from the madness of delusion.

        Falling into the same tired mistakes, the design dead-ends and cul-de-sacs of our predecessors doesn’t help us pursue those strange new avenues necessary to birth RPGs catering to those looking for something different. Not inherently better or worse… just different.

        My “ultimate RPG” is going to be subjective, it has to be, or else RPG designers are chasing the “standard gamer audience” dragon of mainstream utilitarianism. Other designers are welcome to it, but I don’t want that.

        VS

        • Thilo Graf says:

          Okay, there seems to be a cognitive blockage going on.

          I stated that you either don’t understand it (A), or don’t want to understand it (B). This is demonstrably true, as evidenced by your response.

          Neither did I make any contention pertaining “badwrongfun”, as you imply. Please do not put words in my mouth.

          Your argument runs, that the only alternative to infinite resources, all the time, is the 5-minute workday and a constant form of gritty resource attrition, as evidenced by the following statements. “All things must be in alignment or balanced, uphill and against the current, so combat turns into a long-game of pick-your-poison suffering and resource management masturbation. I have no interest in incentivizing the 5-minute workday or making certain classes suck because the rules treat them as one-hit wonders… but awesome after level 5.”

          That is a demonstrably false dichotomy, and a mischaracterization of pretty much any D&D-adjacent game ranging from 0e to 5e or PFRPG.

          If anything, it is YOU who implies that this playstyle is a form of “badwrongfun”, probably as a form of pushback, also evidenced by the emotionally-loaded terms you’re using.

          If any form of resource management is automatically “suffering and resource management masturbation. “, then, from 0e to 5e, ALL of these systems are guilty of that.
          I don’t think the RPG-playing public or designers would agree with you that there is no fun there, or that any form of resource-management automatically results from gritty wars of attrition where the PCs emerge from a dungeon only by the skin of their teeth.
          You don’t even have to explain the math behind any system to show the fallacy here; it runs contrary to the experience of pretty much every RPG-player.

          I wholeheartedly agree, just for posterity’s sake, that the 5-minute workday is horrible.
          However, you conflate the 5-minute workday with being an inevitable consequence of the design of the games requiring any form of resource management.
          This is also demonstrably false.

          The 5-minute workday results from the combination of three factors:
          1) Badly-designed adventures that only account for one solution of a problem, and require that the PCs apply it. OR that did not properly calculate their math/challenges. Either way, bad design.
          2) Players abusing the phenomenon of “novaing” (throw maximum capabilities (highest level spells, best 1/day or 1/long rest abilities) at encounter, annihilate it, rest, rinse and repeat), most commonly as a result of experiencing 1); Alternatively, it might result from a lack of planning and player skill.
          3) GMs letting the players get away with the like, often in direct violation of the random encounter rules, in-game logic, etc.; again, this is the consequence of 2), which is the consequence of 1).

          So, the issue here is not resource management, but bad adventure design and what results from it.

          None of these factors are automatically intrinsic to the design of the system in which the phenomenon of the 5-min-work-day occurs.

          I can very well argue that MUs are not well-designed in most OSR-games and facilitate this issue, because they don’t have sufficient means to contribute much at low levels. This, however, is not an issue with various hacks, newer games, capable GMs, etc. It’s an issue that plenty of designers have successfully circumvented.

          In short: There is no need to construct a false opposition between micro- and macrotensions, which is a great way of thinking about excitement in games!

          Regarding CDSD20:

          -CDSD20 delimits wizards/MUs, allowing them to cast infinite spells, with the only limitation being that they take damage.
          -Clerics have infinite healing, which, in combination with the former rule, results in infinite spellcasting capabilities for wizards.
          -This happens without granting non-wizards any other means to meaningfully contribute to the combat section of the game; it also makes the cleric’s best move to act as a healing battery.

          The result of infinite healing, and spells being thus infinite as well, is that Hit Points cease mattering much.

          They ONLY can matter as much as your cleric buddy can’t heal you up faster than you take damage.

          The only viable, reasonable consequence of this, is an arms-race between PCs and monsters, a focus on who can inflict more damage in combat.

          There is no reason whatsoever for the wizard to NOT fling their best battle-spell right in the face of any opposition, and to keep spamming it.
          Because there is no incentive for NOT doing so. Infinite spells! Same goes for every single adversary capable of casting anything.

          Hit as fast as you can, and annihilate every opposition. The best means to do so, by far, is spells. A fighter can hit one target; a wizard can hit a regiment. That’s why there are limits imposed on spellcasting.

          That’s not something you can dispute. It is the direct, logical consequence, not of “what is fun” or “how you play”, but of the result of the very design of the CDSD20-system.

          Why? After combat, damage ceases to matter in any form, as it’s always the full reset of capabilities for everyone.

          Hit and run tactics, throwing minions at foes, traps, diseases, poisons, treks through the wasteland, hunger, thirst, fungal parasites and everything like that cease to matter, because there is no limit to what the PCs can dish out, or to what they can recover from in a given day.

          Hazards, dangers, etc. only matter if they inflict enough damage to instantly kill you, or if they eclipse consistently the ability to instantly heal them (out-DPS the foe), or if they are save or die.

          Because neither Hit Points, nor spells, matter beyond the ability to annihilate all opposition thoroughly and refresh.

          Ironically, this makes CDSD20 mechanically behave more like the engine of a MMORPG or a story-game (not judging – I do enjoy those as a change of pace as well!) more than like a game based on any edition of D&D.

          If you play Cha’alt RAW by the CDSD20-rules you propose, it will work for brief bouts, one-shots, mini-campaigns. It won’t hold up for prolonged games, because the type of tensions elicited will remain the same, because the system gets in the way.

          The current design of the system not only limits your available narrative means to generate macrotensions, but also the microtensions you can evoke. Because there are only two types of microtensions there:

          -Tension due to being afraid of being out-DPR’d: “Damn, if this keeps up, I’ll die in two rounds!”
          -Tension due to having to roll a save-or-suck roll: “Damn, I’ll die if I botch.”

          And that is why CDSD20, in its current iteration, is a dead-end for narratives, which are your strongest suit, and why Cha’alt is good not due to the system, but in spite of it. Heck, on some level, you KNOW this; you are using non-CDSD20-rules time and again throughout Cha’alt.

          If you do not wish to diversify the tensions your work can offer, that is, of course, your prerogative. But you can’t really build on what you have here, not without completely redesigning the whole class paradigm, and changing the in-game assumptions and logic of the game.

          Cheers!

  2. I feel like we’re on different pages to the point where it’s best for me to walk away before things go further down hill.

    However, I will address one of your last points. Cha’alt was purposefully designed for EVERYBODY who uses some version of D&D to run their games. It’s made to be compatible with almost everything, in one way or another. I’m hoping people hack it up and mash it in with Carcosa, Dark Sun, the Purple Islands, Hubris, Ultra-Violet Grasslands, and whatever madness Patrick Stuart has cooked up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.