So, we played our first session of Savage Worlds. To be honest, it left me a little flat. Everything I've read says play it RAW for a few sessions and it will click. My issue is that my "group" consists of my teenage son, and a teenage friend. Not the most reliable group. Getting together for our second session has been problematic, so I hold very little hope for "a few sessions".
I've been ruminating on just what old school means to me. I have arrived at the conclusion that it is more about style and attitude than it is about system or pedigree. I love D&D and my memories of it. Inevitably, though, I find myself not really tinkering with it as much as changing systems within it whole-cloth. The long road my gaming ADD has lead me down has shown me a lot of different ways to do things, many of which I like. Such as . . .
Armor reducing damage. I fully understand how hit points work and what they represent. I can rationalize the concept of "A miss isn't necessarily a miss, it just wasn't a damaging hit". I just really like damage reduction from a mechanical standpoint and all the doors it opens up.
Combat has the potential to turn Ugly. While I do like the safety net that a high hit point total gives an advanced character, I also like the idea that combat can take a nasty turn. If your character has 60 hp and he is faced off with an opponent that can only deal 8 damage per successful hit (or a max of 16 with a crit), then you know for a fact you can last a minimum of 3 rounds, and that is if he crits all three. Combat should be dangerous and suspenseful. If an opponent is so overmatched that the melee isn't potentially hazardous, why slow the flow of the game with a meaningless combat? Just hand-wave it and move on. Even knowing your character can take two of a monster's best hits and basing his tactics, and the group's plan, on that fact takes all the suspense out of the danger. No sir, combat needs to be deadly and unpredictable.
Magic is unpredictable and failure has consequences. I have made my peace with many of D&D's subsystems that rub me the wrong way. One that I hate, always have and always will, is fire-and-forget Vancian magic. I'm not real fond of power points, either, because how many people know precisely when they will tire? Also, there is rarely any mechanism for pushing yourself beyond your limits. I should clarify. I don't have a problem with spell points, per se, but with a fixed and finite amount of them, and a fixed cost for each spell. I also do not like magic being either, a) automatic or b) subject to a saving throw to determine efficacy. I want a spell roll required for success. The results of that roll will indicate how fatigued the caster is in the attempt. In other words, an especially good or bad roll might result in casting at a reduced cost, or at a greater cost. Critical failure should have a range of potential effects, as well.
Two words: D 6. I want a system based on the venerable and ubiquitous d6. It can be 2d6 or even 3d6. I don't really want a fistful of them, a la MiniSix, though. Really, anything that relies on one die-type will do. I want this for the sake of logistical simplicity. I don't really want to deal with needing a bunch of dice and learning when to roll which one for every new game I pick up. Also, on the topic of logistical simplicity . . .
Booklet-sized, with a moderate page count. At this point, I am a seasoned RPG veteran. I do not need my hand held. I don't need the chapters on What is an RPG? and The Role of the GM. I don't want a bunch of crap about how dwarves look or the cultural history of the elves. That's setting stuff and I don't want it stretching my rules out. I want writing that is readable and evocative, but doesn't mince words. Mazes and Minotaurs is a fine example of this. I also don't really need an art book. I love RPG art, don't get me wrong. But when it comes to my rulebook, I want it to be handy. It should be the sort of thing I can take anywhere and break out when I find the odd free moment. Using a rulebook that is 5 1/2" by 8 1/2", no more than around 250 pages, and uses a few d6, pencils and some paper, I should be able to fit all that in a wooden cigar box and take it just about anywhere.