A couple of years back the OSR was a mystery to me. For me it was strange that people put so much work and effort into reviving such an old game as the original editions of D&D. Back then I was burned out on all things d20 System, and the only old edition of D&D I knew was AD&D 2nd Edition, which I didn’t really like.
Then I started looking into what the OSR actually stands for. I checked out games like Swords & Wizardry, White Box, Lamentations of the Flame Princess and I started to realize that the original D&D was a very different beast from a game like AD&D. Over the years I learned to appreciate the simple elegance of such games. Nowadays a lot of the games I am excited about are actually part of the OSR.
I also admire the creativity in the old-school scene. I am regularly amazed what awesome things you can create using a mechanical base about as old as myself. White Box (especially the version by Seattle Hill Games) has become my go-to game. Whenever I need to run a game without any prep, I can just pull the digest-sized book out of my bag and start running. I am really glad I eventually overcame my reservations for all things OSR.
Recently I had another look at RIFTS, a game which I had a weird love-hate relationship to. On the one hand I love the setting and I have very fond memories of the time when I played in a RIFTS campaign. On the other hand I always hated the rules. I found them confusing, I felt the system had way too many fiddly bits. For years I was looking for alternative rulesets to replace the dreaded Palladium System.
While I was pondering the idea of using one of the OSR games I learned to love over the past few years to run a RIFTS game, people actually reminded me that RIFTS was actually a D&D-based itself. The Palladium System was probably the first successful “heartbreaker”. It’s basically a set of house rules for D&D (or AD&D if I am not mistaken) that were turned into a new game.
So I gave RIFTS another read. While rereading the Ultimate Edition of the core rules I realized that RIFTS doesn’t actually have that many rules as I remembered. Basically it’s a pretty simple game and the fiddly bits (like thousands of small modifiers during combat etc.) can easily be handled by good book keeping. And in the heat of the moment hand waving a few things might work as well.
The rules in RIFTS are also meant as guidelines, you don’t need to follow slavishly. Use what you need and disregard the rest. Make up rulings if needed, and keep the game flowing. I guess this might actually be quite playable if you approach it like the OSR games I mentioned before. My mistake in the past was that I approached it like a more modern game, which it definitely isn’t.
The layout is still pretty pedestrian, the organization of most books is still confusing, but the mechanics aren’t actually that bad if you take the right approach. You just need to play it fast and loose, instead of worrying about the rules too much. But I guess I’ll know more after actually running it again.
Last but not least I want to talk about my ongoing quest to run a SF campaign. For basically forever I tried to come up with an awesome SF campaign which I could run for my friends. I think I already found the perfect system which I can use, but the hard part is making up my mind what kind of setting I actually want. Should it be near future, or rather far future? Is there FTL or is humanity restricted to just one solar system? Should I use our own stellar backyard or come up with stars of my own design? Hard science or space opera. The problem is that I love all the options and I have a hard time deciding what to use and what to throw out. Since a lot of options are mutually exclusive I can’t have both…
Normally I would ask my friends first, to find out what they would like best, BUT this time I decided to take a different approach. I want a setting I am happy with first and foremost and then find players interested in playing in this universe. Over the last years I too often tried to please everyone, which lead to campaigns I was not fully invested in. I don’t want to repeat this with my SF game. Do you guys have any advice how to solve that issue?
So, that were my ramblings for today. We’ll get back to our regular programme next week. Stay tuned.
How about a campaign, that spans several eras. The outcomes of PCs decisions directly influence the setting they will find themselves in in the next “chapter”. This can work especially well with SF, where you can start with space exploration and first contact, and that then directly influences the tech level and relationships with aliens a few hundred years later.
That’s actually a very cool idea. I’ll consider it.