Recent Chat Activity (Main Lobby)
Join Chat

Loading Chat Log...

Prefer not to see ads? Become a Community Supporter.
View RSS Feed


Old School vs Modern

Rate this Entry
How is Old School different from modern D&D? This is half style of play and half the rules as written. After all, 3E and even more so 4E were written to fix the old school style of play. To sum up Old School style of play simply, it's unfair and unbalanced. A modern player can't talk about D&D without using the words balance and fairness after all. Lets look at a couple of examples:

1.Death. Characters in Old School games die all the time. Character death is a natural part of the game. The players know that thier actions can lead to the characters death. When an event occurs, an old school gamer acts like their character is in deadly danger, as they are. The more modern gamer just sits back, knowing that it would be unfair and no fun for the character to die, and is confidant it won't happen in the game.

2.Hit Points. In Old School games you rolled your hit points at every level. Modern gamers like to do stuff like 'gain half your hit dice automatically' or even 'you gain maximum hit points a level'. A modern gamer wants tons of HP's, so they never die. Old School character's got by with very few hit points. It was not uncommon for a 10th level fighter to have 20 HPs(having rolled a 1, 2, or 3 for hit points each level). And some characters, like wizards, had like 9 Hp's at 10th level. You can already hear the modern gamer whine and say it's not fair to have so few hit points and that they will die from the first random goblin attack. See, death, above.

3.Roll or die. Old School games are full of this. Something happens to your character, you roll die. If you make it, you live and if you fail, the character dies. Again, death. In an old scholl game a single roll can kill a character. When the group needed to jump across a pit of lava, everyone gathered to watch each player roll one by one. Some times they would make it, some times make it by just one and sometimes they would fail. A modern gamers character's life almost never hinges on a single dice roll, as you guessed it, it would be unfair.

4.Thinking. With low hit points, wary of rolls and death on their shoulders Old School gamers had to think. They had to do whatever it takes to stay alive, and come up with endless plots, tricks, scams and plans. The modern gamer, who feels safe and protected, just walks into danger.

5.Going beyond the character sheet. An Old School gamer thought of themselves in the fantasy world and played as if it was all real. In old school you did not check your character sheet to see if you have the ability, skill or such, you simply tried to do something. Few modern gamers will attempt anything unless they have more then ten points in a skill. A modern gamer would look at their sheet and say they can't set a trap as they don't have any expert trap making abilities. An old school gamer would know anyone can make the old 'dig a hole and cover it with leaves' trap.

More to follow....

Submit "Old School vs Modern" to Digg Submit "Old School vs Modern" to Submit "Old School vs Modern" to StumbleUpon Submit "Old School vs Modern" to Google

Tags: d&d, old school Add / Edit Tags


  1. RoryN's Avatar
    As an "old school" gamer who is just looking at getting back into the swing of things, I couldn't agree more with your thoughts here. I played a bit of 3E when it first came out, and while it was one of the best role-playing experiences I ever had, I felt it was because of what I brought to the table as a player, not what the rules said.

    Another thing I would add is ability scores. Old school, you rolled your scores and they very rarely went up. They could go down from various items, diseases, monsters, etc., but short of a wish, you were stuck with what you rolled. New school, characters can add to an ability score as they level up. Must be fair and balanced to have unlimited ability score ranges as opposed to 3-18.
  2. Malachi57's Avatar
    I would have to disagree to most of this except for the idea that new players walk into danger much more freely than old schoolers.

    For the most part, it's not about being fair so much as feeling like your character is growing and moving on from where they started. You want to feel like your 10th level fighter can take on 10th level monsters, but if his HP has only gone up 10 points in 10 levels he'll be dead by nightfall. Also, in the fast-paced world we live in today, people want to feel like the time and effort they put into something will bear some sort of fruit. Who wants to keep re-rolling a first level character and constantly grinding to level up just to die at the drop of a hat when they could spend their time learning how to play golf or even play with legos! The investment of time and effort is a much higher commodity these days as there is so much more to do with our lives then there was 20 or 30 years ago. No one wants to feel like their time has been wasted and dying constantly will feel that way.

    I do admit that newer gamers or video game type gamers are naturally more attuned to a certain type of gameplay, but there's nothing out there that says you as the GM can't impose the old school rules on your game. Just don't be surprised when you lose people because they get tired of dying constantly.

    All in all, I would say the biggest gripe made by this post is that people don't die enough in games anymore and that somehow equates to no consequences for taking brash actions. I would say to that, make the encounters harder if it's so easy for players to survive. A lava pit will still kill them and if they know there aren't any death saves in your game, then they're going to think twice.

    Just my humble opinion.
  3. bloodtide's Avatar
    It's not the character's die in old school games.....the point is more that players accept it.

    And note your 'feelings' sure sound like fairness. It's not 'fair' for a weak character to fight a powerful monster.
  4. russdm's Avatar
    Old School gaming put more emphasis on the DM killing the players and the players competing agianst the DM then it being a story getting created by teh players and DM.

    Old School had alot of dying going on than was necessary. 2nd Edition after all, had a table dedicated to saves vs different things. Old School had stuff like save vs paralysis, save vs poison, save vs spells, etc.

    I think that Old School emphasized character death to everything else including fun. Everything you describe points back to death being the result in some way. Low Hp, death happens. Roll a die and roll well or death happens. Be brave or couragous, you will die.

    Old School did little it sounds to encourage players to have brave or couragous characters.