OSRIC Review – Part 2 (Gameplay)

With my first look at OSRIC, I covered the races and classes that the system uses. As promised, I’m going to wrap up my OSRIC musings with an overview of the actual play of the system. I had a chance to play recently, and the GM of the session has blogged about his initial thoughts after using the system. (Part 1, Part 2) I am going to start with some of his points, and then give my own responses. (Portions of his posts are used with his permission). Following that, I’ll give my own wrap-up and final thoughts.

Combat is dry. Too many misses, too many rounds of nothing but melee attacks, over and over.

I have to agree, but only circumstantially. I have found this problem to be present in any gaming system if things are not set up properly. The combat he is referencing was one that involved a lot of rats and zombies. Something like that, where there are few special abilities being used on either side, is bound to drag out. I remember a 4e combat where I  put the party up against 4 beetle swarms; it took the entire 3-hour session for that one, single combat.

In the combat that I was a part of, things were fun and dynamic, but that was an artifact of how creative we had to be to survive, plus we were fighting human, thinking opponents. The GM references this difference in his second post. The fun of combat depends a lot on what is being fought. If it’s a diverse, challenging group of opponents, then (system aside) things can be really fun. Even though the combat in OSRIC can get repetitive, there is a lot of room for good improvisation, and I enjoyed it.

The XP-for-treasure system is questionable.

This is a GM call, but I can see how it would be no fun to have this be present. He also cites the advancement as being really slow. With the current amount of play that we are able to get in, our level 3-4 characters will probably not see levels 4-5 until sometime in 2011. In his second post, he talks about removing that system and increasing the XP for monsters by 5 or 10 times their stated amount to take care of the treasure XP issue. This kind of change is one where your mileage will really vary; if you have no problem with the XP-for-treasure system, then keep it. If not, change it.

Looking up rules is an annoyance.

This one, I can agree with completely. The OSRIC PDF is searchable, but if all you use at the gaming table is the book, then it is not the easiest thing to use. The book does not have an index, and having to look up all of the rules for individual spells with no easy task. (EDIT: My GM corrected me on this point. The book does indeed have an index. His complaint focuses on the confusion that results from having used so many different D&D systems over the years; after all spells change a lot from edition to edition). Imagine how often you have to look up something in 3rd Edition D&D, for example, and then add another couple of minutes per look up because the inf0rmation is difficult to find. It might seem like a nitpicky thing to note, but when our schedules only allow gaming every couple of weeks, it becomes wasted time.

My Thoughts

Beyond the points mentioned above, I do want to add this: I had a lot of fun playing OSRIC. Even though there are parts of the system that are clunky and definitely unbalanced, there is so much openness to the rules that a creative GM or player can come up with some really memorable moments. Now, this is something that can be true for any system, but I find it to be especially true with OSRIC. The old-school system forces you to think more about the actions that you want to take. Say you want to jump off a balcony and grab a trellis across a narrow alley so you can avoid the arrows of your enemies. With many modern systems, this would devolve into a series of potentially uninteresting skill checks. With OSRIC, the GM has room to interpret your actions and make a judgement call. There’s room to improvise. Some people may hate this, some may love it. I think it adds to the experience.

Some Final Points

The GM of my OSRIC session had some interesting thoughts about the problems he encountered with OSRIC, and as he thought about how to fix them, he went down the same path that WotC did: 4e solves all of those problems. Now, my GM is even more of an old-school lover than I am, and he is now considering the possibility of moving the OSRIC game to a 4e game, which would be a drastic change. However, it might be the best move for the group since we can’t get together as often, and need things to move more quickly when we do.

OSRIC is a fine system if you want to play an RPG “the way it used to be” with warts and all. No system is perfect, but there is something that makes me really happy about having seemingly inane restrictions on races/classes and having to worry about grabbing as much gold as I can so I can gain a level. If you want some old-school goodness, want to support a cool project, and don’t have access to the original 1st Edition D&D books, then give OSRIC a try.

[tags]rpg, review, old-school, geek[/tags]

2 thoughts on “OSRIC Review – Part 2 (Gameplay)

Add yours

  1. Nice write-up. Just a couple quick clarifications:

    1. I do want to try running 4e to see how it goes, but I’m not really close to wanting to permanently convert my new campaign. For any criticisms as I can make about OSRIC, I can easily make more about 4e. 🙂 Right now, it’s just hanging out there as a possibility, something I’d like to experiment with.

    2. The OSRIC book is well-organized and does provide an index — the actual 1e PHB is not (in my opinion), and does not. The main problem I had with the rules lookups really isn’t related to OSRIC, it’s more that my exposure to so many D&D editions over the years creates a lot of mental confusion in terms of which book has what in what section/what page.



  2. Ah, sorry about the confusion with the OSRIC index; I thought I had heard one of the guys say that there was no index. Off to edit the post!


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