Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Old School Hack Further Thoughts

There were a few things I didn't get into my review, and a few things that a re-read and further thought have brought to mind.

  • Movement Between Arenas

     I wasn't exactly accurate about moving between Arenas. It is as simple as taking a Move action on your turn. I also want to note that Arenas can be vertical relative to each other. For me as a DM, this is significant. I can't think of ever designing an encounter with real vertical options. My abilities were already strained in two dimensions, three was out of the question. Pit traps notwithstanding. I never felt comfortable mapping things of that nature, let alone having players all over the place like that during a fight. With Arenas that isn't a concern. A simple schematic showing the Arenas relative to each other is all that's needed to have some high-flying fight scenes, literally.

  • Arena Talents are more useful than Encounter Powers

     I had said that Talents are similar to Powers, just with better execution. I overlooked one very important, but subtle difference. Arena Talents are roughly similar to Encounter Powers. However, Arena Talents refresh upon entry to a new Arena. Upon my first read, I had mistakenly thought they were essentially usable once per battle, a misconception that was tied to my lack of understanding of movement between Arenas. An immediately obvious benefactor to this is the Magic User, who can blast away in one Arena, relocate, and fire away again. I like this, because it helps keep magic users from using their useful spells, then cowering behind something, hoping they don't have to actually come out and fight.

  • Niche Protection in a game where any class can select any Talent

     In my review I made a cryptic reference to something I would house rule out. I was referring to a rule that there can be only one of any particular class in an adventuring party. I tend to read new rules in a very insular fashion. On my first read-through I don't always recognize the synergy between systems, thus some features don't always make sense to me until I go back and re-read. This is one of those times. D&D, and by extension, anything based on it, relies on niche protection because the character classes are based on archetypes. When a game, like OSH, opens the door to classes possessing one another's abilities, the niches can slowly erode. In that character development environment, I can see the need to maintain niche protection. The rules present the naked mechanics for such protection, which was one of my initial put-offs, but with a little "window dressing" it all makes sense and plays just fine. There are a lot of rules in a lot of games that don't look that good in a vacuum, but with a little context they can be seen for the useful additions they are. This is one of those.

  • Tone and Layout

     The tone of writing in these rules walks a fine line. On the one hand it is familiar and conversational (one of my favorite lines is "Every player picks one of the seven Class Sheets. Once you’ve picked a class, that class belongs to you, and no one else can play it, so don’t be a dick about it.") On the other hand, it is authoritative where it needs to be. Too many games coming out of the OSR go too far with portraying themselves as "just guidelines, not rules, play however you want to".
     The layout and graphics are superb. Each page covers one or two topics. No topic spans more than one page. The rules are presented in a very visual fashion, which appeals to my short attention span. The fonts really add to the presentation, and though I'm no authority, strike me as being quite print-friendly. There is virtually no art, aside from the cover, but between the fonts, layout, and iconography, these rules do not suffer for the lack.
  • Cover is minimalist awesome

     OK, so this has nothing to do with the game as a game. It has a lot to do with the evocation of the mood of the game. It is minimal, yet it speaks volumes. The image is a village (at least that's how I see it), on an island in the sky. There is something hanging off the side. At first glance, it looks like some sort of lantern or street light, but that isn't right. It's a tower or other dwelling. The Lord of the village? Maybe the local wizard? Who knows? The whole thing looks magical to me, without the artist feeling like he needs to beat me about the head and shoulders to make that point. In short, it is a cover that makes me want to see what's inside. I am very glad I accepted that invitation.

No comments:

Post a Comment