An Introduction to My Old School Philosophy

An Introduction to My Old School Philosophy

I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and have decided to add an introductory statement to the World of WeirthTM Player’s Guide.

I don’t think it needs any further description, feel free to comment below.

Old School Gaming Philosophy

 

retro advert for D&DThere is a group of rules contained in the oldest editions of the D&D game that determine a very specific type of Campaign structure. There are also a handful of core concepts that transcend game systems and playstyles.

One of the most important is the strict regulation of resource management. This includes everything from treasure and rations to spells and tracking of elapsed time. Some dismiss this as needless bean-counting, but I feel it is essential to the spirit of the game. A TTRPG is not a video game, there are some things you must do for yourself.

In exchange you can do things you cannot do in video games, your ideas, plans and activities have a very real impact on the Campaign. You may be inspired to do something no video game designer ever thought of, so it is impossible in a video game. In a TTRPG you can communicate your idea to the designer and executor of your game, and see it become reality.

Likewise, NPCs create the same kind of verisimilitude afforded to Player Characters. Their actions also have an impact on the Campaign, for good or ill. How the PCs choose to respond to (or ignore!) the actions and schemes of NPCs actually drive the Campaign. Domains can rise and fall, mighty beasts are defeated or allowed to rampage, PCs can even lied armies into battle, for their own goals or those of their Patron.

Due to this massive level of activity in the Campaign, Players are encouraged to run multiple characters, in different places and times. 1:1 Timekeeping allows for extended travel, level training and other time-consuming activities while play continues, simply moving the focus from one group of characters to another.

These concepts provide a foundation for dynamic campaign play, immediate entree into the Domain game, and the excitement that comes from robust resource management.

A very important concept is that the Domain Game starts in Session One, with the initial creation of your PC’s very own Faction.

Specific rule mechanics are applied to establish and reinforce these underlying concepts:

  • dice and paperAlignment as Worldbuilding and Game Mechanic
  • Encumbrance
  • Morale
  • Reaction Rolls
  • Time in the Campaign – 1:1 Time
  • Level Training
  • Spell Research
  • Factions
  • and Henchmen/Hirelings

 

ALIGNMENT

Your PC’s Alignment is not a personality trait or a Briggs-Meyer profile. It represents which side you stand with in the great Cosmic Struggle going on all around us. Your Alignment score can range from +3, Lawful, to -3, Chaotic, being an estimated numerical score of your devotion to the Great Cause. Law is the “mode of existence” that emphasises peace, order and liberty, while Chaos is the “shadowy” opposite, emphasizing violence, caprice and entropy.

World of Weirth Alignment Continuum

As you can see by the arrangement of possible scores, the magnitude of Lawful-ness or Chaotic-ness of a being increases as it becomes more powerful. The behavior of some immortals and many gods will be inscrutable to mortals, as they cannot conceive of the scope of their stance on Law and Chaos. Likewise the extremes possible to the Elder Gods is beyond the conception of mortals and immortals, even some of the gods.

The very far ends of the continuum represent a kind of fixed-state orderliness for Law and a completely formless void for Chaos, utterly incomprehensible to any but the greatest of the Elder Gods.

ENCUMBRANCE

Resource management makes Old-School D&D into a kind of Survival Horror game, which is as it should be. Anyone with real-world camping, hiking or trekking experience will tell you the wilderness all by itself is more dangerous than any wild animal.

The Encumbrance system is described in full later, but the basics are as follows:

  • A PC can carry one “slot” (NEED A NEW TERM FOR THIS) of 5-10 pounds  worth of stuff for every point of STR, and still be able to move
  • One slot is also needed for each Obligation, Curse, Spell or level of Fatigue. “Slots” are described as follows:
  • “Free”: Regular clothing, rings, one Amulet/necklace, hat
  • One-fourth Slot: Potion/Oil flask, Knife/dagger, Jewelry, Torch, Cloak/Coat, Wand
  • One-Half Slot: One set of Clothing (stowed), Food for one day, Rod or Bowl (magical focus)
  • One Slot: One Prepared Spell*, 5# coins, One Level of Fatigue, Staggered, Obligations, Curses, Tools/Kit, Spell Books, Water (1 day) 50’ Rope, Lantern, Shield, Helmet, Heavy Clothing for cold weather, Staff, Bow and Quiver
  • Variable: Small or Medium Hand Weapons (1-2), Armor (Light 1, Medium 2, Heavy 3), Magic Items (1-3), Crossbow and quiver (1-2)
  • For any items not specifically listed, use your best judgement (about five to ten pounds per slot) or consult the GM
  • Prepared spells take up fewer slots as Magic Users rise in level
  • Carrying lots of stuff will slow you down, and make you tired faster

MORALE

Monsters, animals and NPCs simply do not fight to the death. Sometimes they won’t even fight you at all (see Reaction Rolls, below). When humans, humanoids or savages, even some of the more intelligent monsters are facing bad odds, they will likely flee. Depending on the situation, your GM will roll and consult a ridiculously simple chart to determine what your opponents or encounters might do, based on what actions your party takes.

Morale rules will also affect any NPC hirelings or Henchmen your party has accompanying them.

REACTION ROLLS

Any intelligent creature that your PC can communicate with will react in some way, when they encounter your party. This reaction is determined by the GM rolling on a chart, the die result is modified by conditions on the ground, threat levels, Social Strata, Charisma and possibly Alignment. (Player cleverness can play a part, as well!)

TIME IN THE CAMPAIGN

(By Gary Gygax, from the 1e DMG, p 37)

Game time is of utmost importance. Failure to keep careful track of time expenditure by player characters will result in many anomalies in the game. The structure of time is what makes recovery of hit points meaningful. Likewise, the time spent adventuring in wilderness areas removes concerned characters from their bases of operation – be they rented chambers or battlemented strongholds. Certainly the most important time stricture pertains to the manufacture of magic items, for during the period of such activity no adventuring can be done. Time is also considered in gaining levels and learning new languages and more. All of these demands upon game time force choices upon player characters, and likewise number their days of game life.

One of the things stressed in the original game of D&D was the importance of recording game time with respect to each and every player character in a campaign. In AD&D it is emphasized even more: 

YOU CAN NOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN

IF STRICT TIME RECORDS ARE NOT KEPT.

Use whatever grouping of days you find desirable for your milieu. There is nothing wrong with 7 day weeks and 31, 30 and 28/29 day months which exactly correspond to our real system. On the other hand, there is nothing to prevent you from using some other system if it pleases you and you can keep it straight. What is important to the campaign is that you do, in fact, maintain a time record which logs the activities and whereabouts of player characters and their henchmen.

 

LEVEL TRAINING

PCs gain experience through completing adventures, some from killing or defeating monsters, more from gathering treasure and returning it to civilization. Upon attaining the number of Experience Points and/or Milestone Advancements needed to be eligible for advancement to the next level, the GM will assign a number of weeks required for training with an appropriate mentor to receive the full benefits and advantages of a new level. This number will be from 1-4 weeks. Training costs 1,500 SP/level per week. 

While a PC is undergoing Level Training they are not available for Adventuring, but there may be some few Downtime activities they can partake in. Consult your GM for details.

SPELL RESEARCH

Magic in the World of Weirth is disappearing. Every year spells are lost forever, as those Magic Users who know their secrets pass on. New spells are gained in two ways: by learning one from a Mentor or benefactor; discovering lost scrolls or reference/spellbooks.

Every time a PC encounters a new (to them) spell, they need to roll on the INT chart “% chance to know spell”. Some versions of spells are just beyond a magic user’s ability to comprehend.

Be aware that the same (or very similar) spell effect may be possible through multiple versions of the magical words and signs. Cloak of Keuthonymos and Shadow of Ekalwyn both produce a Darkness effect, but are different spells (especially based on one’s Alignment and experience level).

FACTIONS

The Campaign setting includes many lands, with their own rulers and vassals. Some cities are controlled by powerful, leveled individuals, others by councils or clergy. There are Guilds that manage the various tasks that hold up the concept of civilization. NPCs and powerful monsters may have their own agendas, free from the confines of an urban area.

From time to time the PCs may find themselves needing to ally with one or more factions against another group, or find themselves the targets of a Faction’s ire. Some Factions and their leaders are universally known, like the Order of the Golden Lion, or the God-Queen of Zygaria. Other Factions are of lesser renown, such as the Prophets of the Chosen or the Vigilant of Xattok, consisting only of a handful of individuals.

HENCHMEN/HIRELINGS

Accomplishing your PC’s goals will require the assistance of others, whether the other members of your party, hirelings that you pay to accompany or labor for you, or henchmen that seek you out to learn from you or follow in your ways.

Henchmen are leveled, or level-capable, individuals who sometimes seek out, or can be convinced to join, a character in order to Adventure alongside them. These NPCs become loyal companions and followers of the PC.

Hirelings are typically 0-level NPCs that your character can hire to drive wagons, guard camps, make handicrafts, forage for plants or animals, do library research, identify items or materials, etc. These NPCs are generally thought of as employees, and as such may develop a sense of loyalty.

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