Imposing boundaries, pt. 2 - remove one "given" rule

Following up from the “dump on character class and one monster” discussion, part 2.

What “universal” type rule would you get rid of, while keeping the rest of a typical OSR game the same? For me without question - experience points and levels.

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Into the Odd and variations of are easily the best system I’ve ran across for OSR style play. Just 3 scores, roll under d20, no classes, dietetic improvement, item-based problem solving. To be honest, classes work better for OSR at my table than skill systems. Skill systems work actively against the player-challenge aspect that is central to OSR for me.


Some candidates:

  1. I’d get rid of modifiers for rolls. Some games remove the ability score and leave the modifiers, but I love all the unmodified rolling under in OSE (ability checks, 1d6 skill checks). With roll under stuff, I never have to think of target numbers, just about the consequences of success and failure.

  2. Rolling to hit has a choke-hold on RPG combat. It breaks combat down to separate attacks, implies a sort of bullet time slow motion while the rolls are resolved. I try to make combat quick, cinematic and fair, but it’s tough. I do love the d20 crit, but it comes with baggage. Into the Odd gets rid of rolling to hit, but I’ve not played/ran it.

  3. Preparing spells. Its hard explain that stuff to new players who just want to have fun. Yes, you have a Fireball. No, you can only use Light, because that’s what you chose this morning. Especially when they start out with so few spells, and preparing cuts that number down even more. I’d like to try the mana point magic system in Wonder & Wickedness.

  4. Armor Class. I’m thinking a roll under STR or DEX would do just fine, disadvantage for tougher foes…

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To-hit rolls. Not a fan of the whiff factor, nor how they abstract armour as making you harder to hit rather than impacting how much damage you take when you do get hit. I also reckon they significantly contribute to the perception that a roll to attack represents a single swipe with the weapon rather than a representation of multiple strikes, feints and general to-ing and fro-ing between two combatants.

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I don’t mind combat rolls for individual characters, as long as the rolls can’t spiral off into absurd outcomes. That can be managed with low “hit points” or equivalent or setting the success rate to where most people have some chance of connecting with an attack. Mass combat never works well with random rolls though. For that a T&T style dice plus adds subtract difference from loser works better.

Spell memorization is complete twaddle and I loathe it in any game. There is no “precedent” for it either in any book with the arguable exception of the Jack Vance stuff, but even there it’s more about the baroque setting than a “working” system of magic and in his original stories it was compensated for by the ubiquitous magic weapons such as wands and so on, and very few of the wands, rings, scrolls and what have you had any significant chance of failure - random weird side effects, but they hit their targets.

This always struck me as a source of tension between gygaxian small man syndrome control freakery on the one hand and story telling or imitating stories beloved by players on the other hand. With the third hand being wargamers who wanted to coat their tiresome rules lawyering in a thin veneer of “fantasy”.