I’ve got Old-School on my mind

During the last months I’ve been throwing a couple of ideas around what I could run next. At the moment I still have a XCOM-inspired game and a Fallout game to finish. Both are run using Fudge and worked quite well.

For a small local convention I planned to run a game of Barebones Fantasy but then I decided to discard this idea in favor of Lamentations of the Flame Princess? Why? It’s not because I generally prefer LotFP over BBF. I just noticed that no one offered an old-school D&D game at this day. And I just got the awesome hardcover version of LotFP’s Rules and Magic book. Then I remembered that my copy of the LotFP Boxed Set contained a copy of the adventure “Tower of the Stargazer”. So it was settled. The Stargazer runs “Tower of the Stargazer” at the local con. Zwinkerndes Smiley

In general I have a soft spot for old-school gaming. Usually old-school games are rules-light, rulings are more important than rules and the players are challenged as well as the characters. This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I like it that way. But I am definitely not as hardcore as some others. But still old-school games have a certain appeal to me.

I initially planned to run a Stars Without Number campaign when I was finished with the XCOM game but then my players threw me a screwball by mentioning that they would love to run Shadowrun. So I started researching Shadowrun, buying the latest edition (just to find out I hate it), and shelved the plans for that SWN game. But over time I noticed that I actually avoided working on that SR game in favor of reading old-school material. Aside from rereading LotFP, I bought the Traveller Bundle of Holding and started leafing through the various books which rekindled some of the ideas I had for that SWN game. I even considered using SWN to run a Traveller campaign (which actually sounds like a perfect match).

Lamentations of the Flame Princess on the other hand could be the perfect rule set for a dark and somewhat twisted game set into the early modern age. A sandbox campaign in the aftermath of the Thirty Years War comes to mind. Sometimes I think my subconciousness is actively fighting my attempt to prepare a Shadowrun game and tries to coerce me into running something more old-school and D&D-ish. The question remains whether I should give in to this coercing. At the moment I’m still torn… Ah, what the heck, I’ll ask my players if we can postpone the Shadowrun game to a later year. Smiley

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

11 thoughts on “I’ve got Old-School on my mind”

  1. I know the feeling. So many games so little time. Stars Without Number is a really fantastic game engine and the universe creation is brilliant. Since reading it I buy everyhting the guy puts out, it is that good.

    Regarding Shadowrun: Do they want to run the world or the System? I find running games challenging enough so I never run any game jsut because the players want. if they want it so bad someone else can take up the DM Mantle for that game. If not they better agree with me on an alternative, else there wont be any game at all. Harsh, but my time is too precious to waste it learning and prepping a game I do not find sexy.

    Heck, you and me should set up a “One Shot Group” just so we can get all these awesome Games out of our system 😉

    1. I think they prefer the setting over the system, so I could basically use another system to run a SR game. There’s a Savage Worlds conversion which looks quite nice, perhaps I’ll just use this.

      And I think the idea for a “one shot group” is great. Let us discuss this over Hangout!

  2. Michael,

    I feel your pain – I was in the same position you are now experiencing – I dug up old SR materials and immersed myself in the setting and its feel. I wasn’t sure I could get into it but its what the players wanted.


    I got an education and I’m a SR convert now. If SR5 is not to your liking go for 4th ed which is very playable and has gobs of great material (see below).

    To make your prep for SR, a bit easier and OSR derived, remember the rules for “Chain Mail” and white box actually used a “5 & 6” on a d6 is a “hit” mechanic, just as SR does. So there is more to SR than first meets the eye, so far as Old School cred goes. For that matter pick up a super cheap copy of SR 1st ed and run that if you like? melee combat is reminiscent of Tunnels and Trolls in SR1. Not saying its smooth or easy ..but its old school right there. Not 1979 old school for sure but its a great example of the second wave and its not the new kid on the block by any standards.

    The game actually plays very well at the table. So the run-time game is very fun for all involved. The writers and fans give the milieu a lot of respect. Play it like a pulp game (Private Dicks in Fedoras style with a dose of Bladerunner) and I’ll guarantee you have fun.

    The magic system is actually really fun and initiation (getting into the “special magic” is also very cool. You could easily do an all mage game in SR and have a blast (pardon the pun).

    re your SWN/Traveller mash up I wouldn’t go that way its not as good a fit as you may first think, moreover Travller IS old school and SWN is really a retro-clone therefore I’d go Traveller. Mongoose Traveller is a great update of the old three core books and unifies the game around the 8+ roll concept – btw if your not aware Gareth Hanrahan did an AMAZING job when he wrote this free adventure “path” its very solid and great Traveller experience. http://www.mongoosepublishing.com/rpgs/traveller/adventures-and-campaigns/secrets-of-the-ancients.html

    BTW Have a look at Ashen Stars and dead rock seven for a good sci fi campaign too.

    SWN is best as a sandbox and while Traveller can do that too and do it well I’m a “modules” guy since Charmax and Horde and Traveller Adventure.

    So SWN for Sand box and Trav’ for a mix of both styles 🙂

    Ashen stars for NCIS-space (yes not csi because your more para-military)

    1. I own all editions of SR aside from 3rd Edition. I even ran games using SR1 and SR2 back in the day, but nowadays I just don’t have the nerve to do so anymore.

      Regarding Traveller and SWN: I know that Traveller is in deed old-school in itself, but I find the Traveller rules a bit clunky. From my perspective SWN just looks a bit more fitting for what I have in mind. Your mileage may vary of course.

  3. With a fresh view (of a modern [aged] roleplayer) Traveller lost a lot of it´s bulkiness.
    When we (all) played it the first time, we mostly perfectly forgot the “role” in roleplaying. Same with D&D, which was mostly played like a tabletop.

    Just reading Mongoose Traveller. It´s a good system that celebrates random creation tables. Most of them could be ignored, to be honest.

    Who is doing this?
    You (role dice) encounter a (role dice) pack of (role dice)12 (role dice) carnivourus (role dice) Hunter with (role dice) six Feet (role dice) Strength (role dice) 9, Dexterity (role dice) 10 and Endurance (role dice) 6. It is attacking with (role dice) Hooves and Teeth…

    1. Yeah, Classic Traveller or Mongoose Traveller are not really that bulky. Perhaps I might end using it after all. On the other hand, I really like how SWN does things. In the end I’ll probably let my players decide.

  4. I know how you feel. I have so many games I want to play/run and a minuscule amount of time to play them (and I’m not even that familiar about many of the systems you mention!) Going to have to fire Google Hangout back up to try some new games…

  5. so many games not enough time or players. shadowrun was a game i bought and wanted to play. to complicated for me to get a grip with. Still, I wanted a Cyberpunk game. saw KURO by Cublicle 7. Lush. simple and yet elegant.
    Never considered myself old school. just play the game you all agree on. or better still play the game you want to run. Done deal

    1. Bill,

      That’s totally fine Microlite – A striped down SRD with old school sensibilities get it FREE here:


      was a big part of the early OSR movement and still is a go to for many people. Including myself. Its a great way to run a game. We did the Saltmash trillogy using the Microlite rules and

      I’m not impressed by Raggi’s angst driven LOTFP for which he charges money for very little original work. I think the d6 thief skills drove interest in it. In my view Labyrinth Lord is my current OSR rule set, however Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea has my attention too and is well worth a look.

      SWN is a great sci fi game my major quibble is 1st level is VERY deadly. The character portion of the game is not as well done as his Other Dust game. I find its DM toolbox materials very innovative and the best part of the game. The Darkness Visible: Espionage Campaigns for Stars Without Number is simply AMAZING and an awesome way to play the game.

      Dont forget Runequest, Traveler, and a whole bunch of games are oldschool. All it is are games which make rulings and play at the table more important then supplements and character optimization mini games. I like to think of it like this.

      Old school manifesto:
      We are rediscovering and uncovering better ways
      of role playing by doing it and helping others to do it.

      Through this endeavor we have come to value:
      Individuals and interactions – that is play – over rule sets and systems
      Fun games at the table over comprehensive simulation, background or mechanics
      Player collaboration over rules negotiation
      Player/GM fun over scripted scenario outcomes.

      That is, while there is value in the items on
      the right, we value the items on the left more.

      Go forth and play for fun!

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