A table-top roleplaying system that's a hack of a hack of the original Red Box version of a certain popular hack-and-slash fantasy game. That's a lot of hacking.

Providing Prep for a Prep-free Game

Tue 17
May
2011
Posted by at 3:14 pm. Filed under: Uncategorized

I ran an Old School Hack adventure for an absolutely smashing group of guys at the DC Gameday this last weekend. It could not have gone better.

Generally my adventure prep for an OSH game involves coming up with an evocatively named place that sounds explorable, an interesting treasure or other reason to go there, and some vague ideas of bad guys that might be there. Sometimes I doodle a loose map. Three sentences or so, and then by the time I’ve written them down and up to and during the actual running of it, usually a grab-bag of little adventure moment ideas have crawled into my brain.

This time things were actually a little more fleshed out, because I had hoped to put the adventure together into an actual publishable format and offer it here as a nice introduction to the Old School Hack system. But this isn’t without its difficulties.

Old School Hack was really designed from the ground up to get you gaming with minimal-if-any prep along the lines of my aforementioned three-sentence adventure structure (at least for me). It’s rules-light to enable the kind of casual DM fiating that empowers thinking on your feet sort of play. So how do I present an adventure when I really like my own OSH games to be highly improvised based on player reaction to scene-setting? It’s tough, and I’m starting to suspect that the actual text of my “Adventure Module” is going to be as much “DMing Advice” as it is “Adventure Setting and Result Exploration”.

However, there were two things I threw together ahead of time that most emphatically did help the game achieve that wonderfully slightly-goofy OSH-ish momentum that I was going for. First, to help start the session I put together a random Adventuring Goal chart with Adventuring Goals that were (mostly) geared towards generating flavor that worked with or were along the lines of the adventure I was planning. Secondly to help finish off the session I put together a random Horrible Magical Effect table to be rolled on should someone decide to use the aforementioned macguffin by pointing it at someone and saying “FZOOT”. I saw it as architecting a touch of suggestive control in the beginning of the game, and a touch of chaos to finish it out.

It’s very important that the Adventuring Goal table remain purely optional. But I like to have it, some players get enough of a sense of their character right off the bat that they come up with an Adventuring Goal on their own, no problem. But a lot of players don’t, so I say “hey, you can roll on the table, and see if it comes up with something you like, or inspires your own idea.” I’m not at all rigid about it, but it does nudge the goals towards both my own adventuring wants as well as provide a good example of the right amount of “scope”, which often tends to be the biggest challenge of incorporating purely player-created goals.

I’ll admit that the Adventuring Goal Chart that exists in the sidebar in the Character Generation Rules is kind of crappy, and was tough to come up with, since it tries not to be very specific. Specific goals are way better. That particular chart is definitely for “I can’t come up with ANYTHING” and makes for a last resort.