Having played a good game with three friends from the Roleplay Rescue community yesterday, I thought I would share some reflections from my perspective as the GM. This was our experimental classic dungeon game powered by the Old-School Essentials rules, set in my newly-born realm of Hiraeth, and played with all the rules behind the screen.
In short, I had a good time and it appears that the players did too. Specifically, what I discovered was how much my previous comments about seeking more descriptive detail in combat truly paid off at the table. In fact, deliberately calling-out and asking players to be mindful of stating not just WHAT their characters would do but also HOW they do it made the experience all the richer.
From my perspective, running OSE (a B/X Dungeons & Dragons clone) with rules-behind-the-screen was positive and simple to do. Of greatest positive impact were the traditional dungeon procedures because they helped me to reinforce the dungeoncrawl scenario structure.
Discussion with the players indicated that they did indeed find it enjoyable to play in this manner and that, yes, they were more consistently in-role. This was the primary goal and so in that sense the game was a success. Additionally, they commented that they didn’t miss rolling the dice, which was a relief to me as many critical questions I have received about this methodology revolve around the almost sacred act of players rolling dice.
What I noticed was how much more deeply the players were thinking about the situations I placed the characters into and also how much more varied their solutions were when compared to more traditional methods. For example, there was a lot more exploration and general curiosity in this game which led to some interesting decisions and outcomes I didn’t expect. They also played very differently to the previous group who tested the adventure. This was all to the good.
The main rules niggles I had lay in knowing that no matter HOW a player character went about a given action, it often boiled down to a roll versus one of the same six attributes… and that just felt over simplistic to my naturally simulationist mind. In effect, however, the players didn’t notice and this is purely an issue for my own tastes.
In conclusion, I feel that it’s going to be very possible to run an Open Table dungeon-based game using this methodology. I may well change the rules system to something a little more compatible with my tastes (given that I am the only person who will directly interface with the rules)… but that is by no means certain. What is encouraging is that bringing the rules behind the screen is offering a different experience, a desirable alternative experience, and a very manageable experience for all.