Monday, May 2, 2011

Matt Finch's Four Zen Moments

Matt Finch's "A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming" is something I read a couple years ago, and it ultimately struck a cord and helped me remember why I played the game to begin with. They say that if you can't describe something in more than two ways, you really don't understand it. So I will paraphrase Matt's Four Zen Moments, and focus on what it means to me.

Rulings, not Rules: One of the principles of Old-School D&D is that it is fast and furious, and a lot of trust is given to DM and his decisions. Good DMs were always in demand because of the rulings that a good DM makes. Arguing the rules, whether they're written or not, official or not, just slows down the game and creates grief. Stumbling over specific rules slows things down and just isn't fun. I realised this playing home games of 3x, and it got worst with 4e that really got granualar with what you could or couldn't do. Trust in the DM used to be a given and unwritten rule. But with 3x/4e, things changed. It also bred or fed into min/max, powergaming, level-questing nature of computer games--not fun. Trust that the DM will make rulings based on common sense, a bit of logic and with the intent to keep the game fun.

Player Skill, not player abilities: I'm not completely convinced with this one. But I totally I agree the burden is on the players to ask the right question, say the right words, and look in the right places. This is a given, but not when playing 3x/4e. Although personally the game I want to play is somewhere between the modern and old-school style. I want my character to not be hindered by my lack of skill as a player, but I want players to play their characters as they were rolled up. So if they're low in intelligence, they should be played as they are. I do agree with the statement, "Know when to run." A good GM IS impartial, I want to be a good GM AND a good player. A good player should be able to play a crappy character successfully. The principles are the same.

Heroic, not Superhero: I'm with this all the way. The analogy Matt uses is Batman vs Superman. The characters, in old-school style play, can definitly reach the power levels of Batman. Superman was born like that, and there are games that cover it. This also falls into pit that some modern players have, the entitlement to be super. They're not special. Deeds and Actions make the characters special. Which goes with the fourth Zen moment.

Forget "Game Balance.": There would be no sense of fear, mystery or dread if every enounter was "balanced." Part of the challenge is to overcome overwhelming obstacles. One of the problems I had with "modern" D&D was the sense of entitlement some players had, and that some DMs had to accomodate. "That enounter was too hard" or "That encounter was too easy", were words that made me cringe as a DM. Challenge is part of the game. Game balance shouldn't be a concern. Mistakes happen and you deal with them accordingly. If the party decides to enter the dragon's cave, and they die... well, that's what is probably supposed to happen. The emphasis on balance is what broke most of the modern versions of classes that used to be special. I understand the philosophy behind certain game rule decisions. But I think those philosophies are misguided and are based on a sense of entitlement a lot of "modern" gamers have. For example, race/class level limits are a sticky subject. They seem arbitrary, but you can't deny that it makes for an effective way to restrict access to certain race/class combinations. The debate against them are reasonable on both sides, but they come from different points of view with different goals. Class balance is also a difference between Old and New. But it comes from the sense of entitlement that a wizard has the right to be toe to toe with a fighter at first level. I find it silly, but that's me and why I am personally bothered by the modern game.

Those are are the Zen Moments as I understand them. They clicked the moment I read them, and almost immediately rekindled the feelings and memories I had when I first started playing D&D, with a good DM. My first sessions were rough, that's for sure. I might touch on the Tao of the GM on another post if I have time. They're good, and they must be read by all DMs.


primer.pdf Download this file

Posted via email from Dak, D.M.

The Intro Adventure

May 7th is coming up faster than I expect. I'm somewhat prepared. I know the rules. I have an adventure that I've read and think I'm prepared for. But there are few things I have not done. I need a character sheet. None of the ones I've found do it for me, so I might have to start from scratch. There are also a few things I'm not sure how I want to do. Pre-made characters? Or create new ones on the spot. There are also a few rules things I want to iron out, but I want to see what the group wants to do about it. I want the game to be very cooperative, but at the same time I want to make sure we play the game I want to play. I AM the DM! 

I recently picked up a copy of OSRIC, man it is good. The afterword was very inspiring. Stuart Marshal had five pieces of advice that I want to share here (I'll be paraphrasing) 

  1. Play it FAST. Roll handfulls of dice. 
  2. Skip the boring bits. Fudge to make things faster. Place the appropriate burden on the appropriate side of the screen.
  3. Making Characters is FAST. Fights are Furious. Characters will die, make a new one! Players aren't entitled to be hero, they can be heroes if they desire, it's not a right. What that also means to me is that characters aren't automatically Super Heroes but they can be if they play smart and desire it.
  4. Don't tolerate dithering! Act, deliberately and quickly.
  5. The DM creates the world. The players create the characters that want something from it. The characters have to go out and get it, the burden of a good story is on everyone, not just the DM.

Posted via email from Dak, D.M.

0e D&D in Pasadena, CA. May 7th, 2011

I'll be running a 0e game of Dungeons & Dragons on Saturday, the 7th of May. It will be an introductory adventure. I don't know if I'll be running something homebrew, or if it will be a pre-made adventure. If it's a pre-made, it might be Matt Finch's Tomb of the Iron God. It might be a 0e module I dig out of my ancient trove of games I have buried at parents house. I'm not really sure yet but I AM open for suggestions. I hope to make this an ongoing campaign, but we'll see. 

I will be getting my feet wet as a 0e player too, but as the DM of course. (As I've always been the GM 99% of the time, and I always take responsibility of learning and teaching games.)

Contact me directly if your interested in playing. If you're part of my weekly "homegame" or a member of the S&W Creative Guild, I can reserve you a seat. Spaces are limited, and open registration begins on the 30th. 

Feel free to contact me if you have any suggestions or questions.


I'll be putting together a perma-link or page when I have more information, such as a campaign name, house rules, etc. Yes, this is a work in progress!

Pasadena D&D Meet-up Info

Sign-up (Begins Apr 30)

S&W Core Rules (Free Version, Mythmere Games)

S&W Complete Rulebook (Retail Version, Frog God Games)


Posted via email from Dak, D.M.

Swords and Wizardry Creative Guild #dnd #s&w


I have recently joined this group. I hope it will be the creative spark that I need to improve my gaming and writing. 

It's just starting, so I really don't know what it will entail. But I plan to get involved as much as I can and plan to start demoeing the game at game-days and other geek events. 

I'm really excited.

Who wants to play some old-school D&D?


Posted via email from Dak, D.M.