Doing It Old-School? Really?

We are unexpectedly a man down in our regular Thursday night game for a few weeks. Forcing us to put our current game on hold and look around for a new one. As it had been sometime since I last ran anything I volunteered to throw an adventure together using the 6d6 Magic rule set. As an experiment in the flexibility of the 6d6 system, I dug out my 1978 edition of Dungeon of the Bear, a Tunnels & Trolls adventure, and set about converting it.

As an adventure, Dungeon of the Bear is as old-school as it gets and is full of the quirky charm of Tunnels & Trolls. A system that deserves more recognition. It was a fast and rules-light system before anyone had even thought of the concept.

Cutting Edge Heaven

The good news is that 6d6 Magic seems to be coping well this style of gaming. The magic system is getting a good shake out and its forcing me to create many different types of monsters and traps. All of which is reassuring. Knowing that the 6d6 RPG with its new and distinct mechanics can cope with all the demands of this style of gaming is very pleasing.

Old-School Hell

When I volunteered to run Dungeon of the Bear, it was a longtime since I had read it and I had forgotten exactly how old-school it was. We are talking about an adventure where living monsters (orc, trolls etc) are locked in secret rooms only to be released when a player steps on a trap. There is one room where there are three Ice Lynx’s just sitting there, waiting for fight. No explanation why the Ice Lynxes are there, it not even a cave but a proper room with a door, complete with door handle and latch.

The adventure makes absolutely no sense. How do these creature get fed? Where do all their waste products go? Where did they come from? There is no attempt to provide a rational or back-story to the dungeon. It is just a series of rooms where the party open the door, fight the monster, take the treasure.

Admittedly that description could be applied to many modern adventures (D&D Encounters, I’m looking at you), but even in the worst of them, at least there is an attempt to provide a narrative. A veneer of a story that distracts the party from asking too many questions.

Do Retro-Gamers Really Want This?

Frankly, I cannot bring myself to run the adventure. It is just so far removed from what I look for in a modern scenario that I’m going to write something new. It is not that the adventure is bad (there are some nice ideas in it), it has just dated badly.

But the question is this, do Old-School Gamers really play this style of adventure? Or are modern Old-School dungeons really just modern dungeons using old-school mechanics?


  1. Sure, why not? Sometimes you just want to bash some things. I don’t tend to design dungeons that way, but the GM I play with on Friday nights does, and we have quite a bit of fun. She sometimes provides a thin veneer of explanation (certain dungeons are known to be the playthings of certain demigods who keep them stocked and change things up for purposes of their own, others are specifically designed as tests of worthiness/training grounds by a mysterious organization), but the point is really the game aspect of pitting yourself against the perils and overcoming them, not creating a naturalistic story of the adventures of the character.

    If you’re looking for a good take on the kinds of dungeons sometimes derided as “funhouse”, I recommend Philotomy’s musings on Dungeon as Mythic underworld.

  2. This is a funhouse, pure and simple, just one of several different styles of games that old schoolers play. This sounds, to me, more like an exercise of picking/choosing your battles as compared to your resources. It’s just one style and yes, it can be very entertaining as long as you let go of any expectation of Gygaxian Naturalism or that things are supposed to “make sense.”

  3. These questions you asked?

    “How do these creature get fed? Where do all their waste products go? Where did they come from?”

    What if your players answers are: “who cares?”

  4. @Baz,

    Well, this group of gamers I’ve played with along time and they will care. Or at least take the piss because of it which almost the same as caring.

    More importantly, I care. I’m happy to suspended my sense of disbelief over magic and mythical monsters but somethings just jar with me.


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