Sunday, November 30, 2008

OSRIC 2.0 Released

Again, I'm late to the party, but if you're one of a handful of my readers who don't check out other blogs and forums, you might not know that OSRIC 2.0 has been released. This is a free 400-page PDF, complete with some excellent old school art and a proper layout, that restates the classic Gygaxian rules set for players, referees, and publishers alike. It's frankly an amazing thing to see this finally come to fruition at last. It's clearly a labor of love by Editor-in-Chief Stuart Marshall and his legions of dedicated assistants. This certainly is the most ambitious retro-clone project yet undertaken, both in its scope and in the boldness of its approach. It will be very interesting to see what happens next, particularly how many more publishers decide to support the game with new products.

In any case, I'd like to quote Marshall's afterword to OSRIC in full, because it nicely encapsulates not just the philosophy behind Gygaxian fantasy roleplaying, but the whole old school style of play:
First, play OSRIC fast. Part of the beauty of this system is, with a little knowledge and practice, you can run a battle between ten player characters with a dozen hirelings and henchmen and a handful of summoned monsters on one side, and thirty ogres with a shaman and two dozen worgs on the other, and you can resolve it in thirty minutes flat. It helps to roll dice in handfuls, but the big things that make that possible are the simplicity of the combat rules and morale. Don’t forget morale, it’s important—it’s for skipping over the boring bits. The moment it becomes obvious to intelligent monsters that they’ll lose a fight, they will run or surrender

And this brings me to the second thing, which is, please do skip over the boring bits. Fudge things to make them faster And if they can’t be fudged, then the GM and players should share jobs fairly—if the party’s using detailed encumbrance rules, then the GM shouldn’t have to do all the bean-counting. After all, the GM is busy doing GM-like things, such as drinking the beer that’s so vital to his or her concentration or laughing cruelly at the players’ latest mistake, and so has no time to do math

The third thing is, in OSRIC generating a player character is fast. If you die, it’s a quick and easy job to roll a new character and get straight back into the action. Which means that dying isn’t so much of a pain in the neck as it might be with other systems

Assume you will lose some player characters from time to time and plan accordingly. Once you’re past the first few levels, most players should accumulate a few henchmen who can replace their main character if the main character dies (or is petrifi ed, disintegrated, converted to green slime, swallowed whole by some huge monster, falls into a sphere of annihilation, or… well, OSRIC’s a dangerous world, lots of things can happen).

If you die and fail your resurrection chance, deal with it with good grace. Sure—nobody likes to lose a character, but don’t take it too seriously. This is a game. In OSRIC, you aren’t entitled to be the hero. You might just get to be the hero, but don’t expect it as a right

And there’s a fourth thing: Make sure everyone round the table gets a chance to have their say, but don’t tolerate dithering. If your GM asks you, “What do you do now?” then you’d better answer at once or expect to lose your opportunity.

The fifth and last thing is, your GM isn’t called a “storyteller” for a reason. He or she isn’t telling you a story with you cast as the protagonist (If you want that, try one of White Wolf’s games ). The GM creates a world—you create a character who wants something. It’s up to you to go out and get it. Story is the result of the game, not a process within it.

Have fun!
Have fun indeed.

13 comments:

  1. It really is a nice piece of work. The love in this 'labor of love' really shines through.

    I don't know about mentioning WW in the afterword. The first time I read it, it sounded negative. Reading again, I'm not so sure. It might be an endorsement? At any rate, I'd just be worried about it being misconstrued.

    Fantastic piece of work. A good time for gaming.

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  2. The fifth and last thing is, your GM isn’t called a “storyteller” for a reason. He or she isn’t telling you a story with you cast as the protagonist (If you want that, try one of White Wolf’s games ). The GM creates a world—you create a character who wants something. It’s up to you to go out and get it. Story is the result of the game, not a process within it.

    In other words, this is your story, not the GM's. I respect that.

    Osric is based on OD&D, right? Maybe I should give it a look. I'm having trouble locating the LBBs and supplements.

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  3. Osric is based on OD&D, right? Maybe I should give it a look. I'm having trouble locating the LBBs and supplements.

    OSRIC is AD&D 1e, more or less.

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  4. Broadly speaking, Swords and Wizardry is OD&D. Labyrinth Lord is Basic D&D (at least B/X), although it has a supplement that lets it emulate OD&D. OSRIC, as mentioned above, is AD&D 1e.

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  5. Hrmm.

    "A character below 10th level may remain on another plane for up to 1d6 turns. Beyond that, assume he or she is consumed by the astral/√¶thereal equivalent of a grue. In other words, that character is gone, permanently and irrevocably destroyed without any possibility of raising or resurrection short of a wish." — OSRIC, p.142-143.

    I cannot find any such rule in any 1st Edition rulebook. Looking at the actual 1st Edition of the game, the random encounter tables for those two planes include 9th level clerics and thieves; 7th level druids, paladins, and rangers; and 8th level fighters and monks. Similarly, 7th level magic-users could manufacture their own oil of etherealness (in accordance with DMG p.118).

    It's not like this rule is in the SRD or anything, either. It sure looks like an attempt in OSRIC to enforce a "One True Way" that the planes are only for "higher-level play" (OSRIC, p. 142). A claim notably not made in the 1e DMG's "Travel in the Known Planes of Existence" section (p.57-58).

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  6. Did the book grow hands and try to throttle you into compliance? Notice the admonition to 'do what you want because it is your game'. The DMG made the same recommendation. It's a roleplaying game, not a manifesto of 'The One True Way'. No need to be deliberately thick.

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  7. Obviously, any rule in any game can be ignored. That is not a blank check to immunize the creators from any analysis of what rules they chose to include.

    I looked at the stated purposes of OSRIC, and I cannot relate it to them. This rule does not further the goal to "reproduce underlying rules used in the late 1970s to early 1980s," since this rule would make random encounters specified by those rules impossible.

    This rule is similarly not a case where, due to legal constraints, the rule is "more based on the SRD than on original rules". No such rule exists in the SRD.

    Left with no evidence I could find in the text as to why the rule was placed in the game, I came up with the best hypothesis I could as to the purpose of the rule. Your declaration is that is being "deliberately thick".

    Well, perhaps I'm being thick, but it's not deliberate. I cannot see any purpose of adding such a rule except to actively discourage play on the Ethereal plane at 10th level or below. I cannot see any reason for this active discouragement except a belief that it is not "old school" to have such adventures.

    So, please enlighten me, what is the actual purpose of the deliberate inclusion of this rule in the game?

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  8. I wrote that rule and I'm responsible for it. Its purpose is to prevent all use of the astral and aethereal planes in OSRIC without GM sanction. Which is very far from what Gary Gygax wrote, and I accept that.

    There were very few occasions in OSRIC where I was tempted to amend the game Gary Gygax wrote -- but "very few" isn't the same as "none". I only did it to fix important issues with the rules. (For example, one glaring issue is that in the game Gary wrote, healing spells and raise dead could be reversed by dispel magic, which was certainly not Gary's intent.)

    In the case of that rule regarding planar travel, I was informed by an enlightening conversation about the planes that I had with Gary before he died, and also with Frank Mentzer. Basically, the content of that section of the rules reflects that conversation.

    Dungeon Module S1 does deal with the possibility of aetheral or astral travel by player characters and uses a similar approach.

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  9. I've never seen anyone play or even suggest that healing can be undone by dispel magic - or raise dead for that matter, although that's a much rarer spell. If the DM wants to play it that way then they're a) a bit mad, and b) entitled to.

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  10. In the case of that rule regarding planar travel, I was informed by an enlightening conversation about the planes that I had with Gary before he died, and also with Frank Mentzer. Basically, the content of that section of the rules reflects that conversation.

    That's very fascinating. I'd love to know more about the content of that conversation, assuming there is anything more to know.

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  11. Yeah, there's a fair bit, and fortunately it's a matter of public record because I had that conversation on Dragonsfoot.

    Start here: http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=50&t=11762&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&start=135

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  12. Hm. It's not all there. I'll have to hunt round for more of it... I returned to the subject a few times.

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  13. If it's any help, I had a similar conversation online with Gary on the subject of handling Demon Princes in combat. Gary's advice was to pick a PC at random each round and declare them to have been destroyed by the demon's powers; no save.

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