Playtest: First Round Overview
Mike’s post this week was is an overview of things in the Beta so far, which I already went over in way too much detail, so I’m just going to do a short post on my least favorite bit of the Beta: the little “For an old-school game, play without Theme and Background” from the character sheets.
It’s not a bad idea that you can hack up a game and create something that fits a different genre. It’s the idea that taking out these elements are what makes an old-school game.
Mike mentions that the intention of removing them is to decrease character power, which I’m glad he clarified. At first I thought it was because those concepts didn’t “fit” with old-school play, which I don’t think is true. While skills are typically not a part of old-school, these aren’t really skills like we’ve seen them before, they just provide a modifier if they apply. Everything else is more or less fine, though old-school play wouldn’t normally start a character as a knight.
So Mike has a good reason for that line that I didn’t appreciate at first, but the bigger issue is how much else has to change to really go “old-school.” There’s a section in the adventure that talks about adjusting DCs to suit the player characters, which is fairly antithetical to old school play: if you can’t find a way past a door, you can’t get past it, sorry. The way XP is awarded would probably be changed up some too. Changing one bit of player-facing class doesn’t really make a game any more old-school.
That’s my big disappointment with the Beta at this point. The first glimpse of modularity has been underwhelming and doesn’t really adapt the game as a whole. Instead it’s a minor tweak that assumes the DM already knows how to do all the rest. Wouldn’t a DM who already knows all the rest just cut out those bits without the character sheet prompting them to?