Kickin’ in open doors…

Wizard’s Book

In some quarters of the Old School Renaissance gaming sphere, the words “story” and “plot” are denoted as a crappy, boring and utterly despicable way of running a game.

The way of Deviltry.

And reading texts like Matt Finch’s “Old School Primer” and some blogs, you get the impression that everyone played mega-random hexcrawls “back then”.

We didn’t.

We must have been so un-OSR, because we never did that back in the day (well, maybe the “Isle of Dread” counts as a hexcrawl…?), and neither did any of my other gaming buddies from other groups.

Another interesting thing is that this discourse is limited to the OSR scene. I follow (and sometimes even get to play) a bunch of other gaming systems, and this topic has never ever emerged, not even in the Classic Traveller forums. Why is Old School D&D the only game where story and plot gets the boot? In other games this is so a non-issue. What does get the boot in most games is railroading.

I get that this is a reaction towards the extensive railroading increasingly seen in modules from the 2nd and 3rd edition (can’t say about 4th, since I never read those books). And if railroading is the problem at hand here, I’m not sure that tossing out story and plot in favor of totally random gonzo-gaming is the right way to handle things. Yes, random hexcrawls can be fun, but to be honest, I get bored of them quite quickly, just as of megadungeons. Play them for a change, yes, but not all the time.

I’d rather play and write adventures with a well conceived story and plot, but instead of relying on random rolls all the time, instead be flexible and respect the decisions the players make even if they totally crash the story behind the scenes. Of course, random table rolls, random encounters and wandering monsters have their place. If they are customized to the story, and if they make at least some sense in the greater world.

So, I’m keeping my plots and stories. And a healthy bunch of random tables for various situations. And an open and flexible mind when I GM. But I will never, ever join the ranks of OSR-talibanism.

Of course, I missed out both 2e, 3e and 4e, as I stopped playing D&D just before 2e hit the shelves. Maybe that’s why I’m not buying the random hexcrawly thing.

But I was there, in the early years, so you don’t get to tell me “how it was done back then”.

And yes. I’m Old School.

Ask my kids.





4 thoughts on “Kickin’ in open doors…

  1. wtf is this horseshit? “osr taliban” really? That makes you, what, a “new school nazi”?

    Anyway, Hitler, random encounters are just tools to help the DM improvise when the players are only interested in wandering around. Hexcrawling is just one method of handling journeys without hand waving them.

    “Story” is such a loaded term that I literally have no idea what you’re trying to say when you use it.

    Sandboxes should still have plotliines, like orcs sacking towns and kidnapping princesses. It’s just up to the PCs if they want to rescue her or not. Don’t get too invested in it before the PCs commit.

    The OSR emphasizes random encounters a lot because a lot of newer DMs don’t know how to improvise an encounter! So they lean toward railroads. But if all you’re doing is randoms then you’re only half a DM.


    • Sir!
      The term “taliban” here was meant to illustrate a certain frame of behaviour and logic, namely fundamentalism. Not literally saying that OSR hexcrawing people are real talibans. You know that, but you couldn’t resist throwing some insults around, could you? You, on the other hand insult me personally, and you don’t even have the courtesy of showing your flag. Other than your detestable intro, the rest of your post is really just in line with what I said. As for semantics, use “story”, “plot”, “background” or whatever term you prefer. My arguments are valid anyway. And who decided that the word “story” is not to be used? Anyway, I don’t tell you what to do. I say what I won’t do. Big difference dude. Big difference.


  2. Arrrrrr! 🙂

    So. Seems like story and plot are synonyms for railroads to some. I prefer to have my background plot prepared, too, but never the outcome. I didn’t read that Primer, but what I got out of OSR always was about the railroad. E.g. I use those tables for prepping games beforehand because I’m too slow in the game, and then dots connect, and there’s the plot. But what’s the difference really?


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