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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Old Skool Hack - An Awesome Awesome


Jan Jan Jan
Marsha Marsha Marsha
One of the things I don’t get to talk a lot 
about on the podcast is the subject of tabletop RPGs. This pack of dorks plays a bit, Grim has a weekly Pathfinder game, Blake plays D&D, and I have a weekly and monthly game. For those of you interested, there are a dearth of RPG advice podcasts out there, and I listen to a lot of them. Role Playing Public Radio, by Ross Payton and his motley crew, and (not as much about RPGs anymore) Rob Justice and Mike Curry of Bear Swarm are actually one of the reasons I started listening to podcasts, let alone co-hosting one. Generally when among like minded tabletop folk, the question comes up to "What do I play?" The answer to what I play the most is a combination of D&D 4th edition and Pathfinder. The next question that usually comes is "Whats one favorite D&D?" the answer to which is "Neither."

As of today, my favorite D&D is Old Skool Hack. OSH is by Kirin Robinson. I think I've mentioned before, I like my games indie, so people who prefer simulation and realism in their games can jump ship right now, this isn't the game for you. I've run OSH a few times and played it only once (Always the DM, never the bride). OSH cleverly combines that old school D&D feel (elf and dwarf are a class, not a race) with over the top mechanics mixed in with indie player agency. There are three things I REALLY love about OSH

1. Simplicity
2. Awesome Points
3. How You Level


Me, IRL
One of the great things about OSH is the simplicity. The rules fit on 11 well laid out pages. Typed out, they'd probably be shorter than this blog post. The character sheet is one page. You can create a character in under a minute if you know what you're doing, and I was able to make fully stated monsters up on the fly without pausing. Character creation involves taking the sheet of paper for the class, rolling your attributes very quickly (don't worry if their too low, you get rewarded for points for keeping low stats, and high stats are their own reward) deciding on a talent, armor and weapon Instead of tables of weapons, players choose one of six categories. The fighter with a warhammer? Probably a heavy weapon, unless you wanted to play it as a reach weapon, or since he's Artie's (the strongest man in the World) cousin, its a light weapon for him. Want that warhammer to be a statue or the leg of something you killed? Just as easy. Each of these categories does better in a different terrain type. Ranged weapons are better in open areas, light weapons are good in tight areas. Now would be a good time to mention that movement in combat is handled by creating various zones on the map, which have these types. Instead of moving square to square or hex to hex, players move between zones. Armor is similarly categorized. Skills and points are gone, replaced with your six attributes. No need to set DCs either, you always roll off against the DM, adding your attribute to the roll, and the DM adding any appropriate attribute number if he wished. Its just complicated enough to be tactically challenging without getting in the way.


Has a B.A. in Stabbing, minor in Pol. Sci.
So how does all this simplicity pay off? It frees the players up to do what players should be doing, awesome things. To this end, whenever a player does something awesome, the DM or another player can award them with an Awesome point from the awesome point stack. Awesome points let players do extraordinary things or take narrative control, or pull out powers they need at this awesome moment. This inevitably leads to more awesome moments, meaning more Awesome points are distributed, in what I like to call an awesome feedback loop, which is like a feedback loop, except its Awesome. In a normal tabletop, this would be a problem, but OSH wants your players to be cool and do over the top things, and this mechanic lets them do just that. Meanwhile, whenever you as the DM need to fudge something, or let that monster stay around for just one round, because your players are too awesome, you get to put more points into the awesome point pool. Things getting too out of hand? Stop putting awesome points into the pool. Need to ramp things up? Start putting more points in, which should cause the players to spend more to meet the challenge. In one of my games, a cultist was chanting in a magic circle. The party wizard spends an awesome point to short circuit the runes, blowing the cultist into the air. The fighter then spent an awesome point to smack him with his hammer midair like a baseball into some nearby merchant stalls, creating a distraction for the rogue to steal valuable plot maguffins. At this point the players high fived and awarded each other Awesome points, which was fine by me.


Elves: Wear leaves to signify they love nature, and dislike showering
To keep one player from hogging all the awesome spotlight, and to keep people doing awesome things, players level in OSH by spending awesome points. The thing to keep in mind is that everyone levels at the same time and only after everyone has spent twelve points of awesome individually. That means no one gets to level until everyone has done twelve awesome things. If you've got four players, that's forty eight awesome things, and usually people level midway through my sessions. How many games have you played where even a dozen awesome things happened? Here's a system that really encourages your players to do those awesome things you tell stories about later. Like the time my players snuck into a zombie infested tomb by hollowing out a cow, getting inside and pretending to be a zombie cow.

So its not all fresh flowers, rainbows and zombie cows. The game isn't completely finished yet, as "high level" play isn't supported. This is the part of the review where I try and think of something bad. Its going to be a short part.

Another cool thing about OSH? Completely free and released under creative commons. The core rules are available free and the illustrations peppering this review are from the pregen packages (done by the talented Kyle Ferrin, take a look here for his work) So whats stopping you from picking this up and having an awesome time?



1 comment:

  1. Aw shucks. Glad you like the game! Hope you're having all sorts of fun playing it.

    ReplyDelete