Bridging the Gap

There is a lot of animosity between the old-school and new-school gaming groups. A lot of this I think is unnecessary. I mentioned briefly in my introduction that I am more of an old-school gamer. This isn’t entirely true. While I do enjoy the older games much more than the newer ones. There is a lot to be learned from any game.

I think that the fact that I mentioned my preferred game system was Castles & Crusades was hint to this line of thinking. It does use some things from the d20 era along with somethings from the older versions. I like this because I can use pretty much any material printed with very little conversion. Older or newer it doesn’t matter.

What I would like to talk about is how to take this one step further. Let us take a more modern game and see what we can mine from it to use in an old-school game or any game for that matter.

Today I want to talk about the FATE system and what I took from it. Ever since I read the old FATE 2e book a couple of years ago the idea of fate points stuck in my head. I thought I would try to bring this to my game and did so successfully.

Instead of making the fate points tie into aspects or having to make any rules changes, I simply gave each player 3 coins. They could use these coins to add +2 to a roll, re-roll any dice, or take narrative control. If they contributed something meaningful to the adventure, I would give them another coin.

Narrative control is the big one here. Not many old-school people would allow this type of thing. Since I am the type of GM that likes wing it, I didn’t think this would be a problem, and it wasn’t.

Let me give a quick example of how this went down and you may see where this could be fun.

We were of course playing C&C and the setup isn’t too far from the fight scene in the Mines of Moria from The Lord of the Rings. Five PCs fighting a lot of goblins, I don’t recall exactly but I would say about ten. One PC rolled and hit a goblin but only did 2 points of damage, he used a coin to add +2 for 4 points. One PC fumbled a roll and decided to re-roll. Standard usages for a coin.

Then the narrative started. (After a bit of prodding by me.) Realizing they were kind of hurting at this point. One of the PCs decides to say, “Something scares off the goblins.” I’m thinking okay, now I gotta come up with something. Then one of the other PCs says, “Wouldn’t it be cool if it was a big ass cave troll like in the movie.” I thought, hell yeah, here’s a coin. Then another of the PCs, “We are too weak to fight that. It’s an illusion.” Coin spent. Now I had a magic user to add to the combat, awesome.

Now this isn’t far off from what normally gets talked about at the table, the only difference is what they speculated was true. They really had a good time with this and I think others could too.

Have you used something like this in your games, or do you have any tips on merging old and new?

8 thoughts on “Bridging the Gap”

  1. In my current Pathfinder game, the DM has been giving out chips(ok, Green Lantern Rings) that essentially represent a single reroll on a D20 per game. Oddly enough, they barely get used. I think my Pathfinder group has a lot more by way of old school tendencies.

    I’m reminded of ICONS for what you’re talking about. It essentially takes a simplified version of the old school FASERIP system and tacks a variant of FATE Points on top of it.

    1. Nothing wrong with old school tendencies, it's how I learned to play and is still my preferred way to play the game. I thought this would be a good challenge to my improv skills and it has been. I would take advantage of the Green Lantern Rings, your GM may be trying a similar experiment. I would really recommend using them when no-one expects it.

      "You mean you are going to use a ring on a gather information roll?" Yeah, I really want to get some plot seeds!

  2. Giving players narrative control is amazingly helpful. As a DM I love it when players speculate/create the story in harmony with the DM. I’m also a winging it type so I’m not afraid of losing control, rather I welcome the opportunity to let all of our creative energy lift some of the burden of invention from myself. I just played a couple games of Danger Patrol this weekend and it is all about players creating the world and details of threats as they go. It was fast, involved all players in every turn, and turned out more creative than I could’ve made it on my own.

    I think most games should have more of this. My 4e D&D game uses a variant of Aspects and FP, and they are most interesting when used to make major or minor narrative declarations. My players have even used a lot of them to make big declarations that are actually very problematic to their players but awesome for the story and in depth character development. I love it.

  3. Love the post Michael (another Michael? Wow!) all very good points. I too agree that there is no need for animosity between different gamers, be they old school vs. newer gamers, or D&D players vs. WoD players, which was more common years ago I think.
    I think the use of chips, points, whatever they may be in always and enhancement to the game. I concur with your point that the DM/GM has to be able to improvise because more so than in other situations players will throw you a curve ball. If the GM is the type to run a tightly scripted game such tools would be hard, but I believe the benefits outweigh the difficulties.
    I use Action Points, as presented in D20Modern and the 3rd edition version of Unearthed Arcana, combined with Swashbuckling Cards in my Pathfinder Campaign. Since the game is full of swashbuckling action the points flow freely. I’m currently playing Mutants & Masterminds which has a mechanic built in already so I have not tweaked it. When we go back to Pathfinder I may use the Plot Twist Card instead of the Swashbuckling Cards.

  4. One of the things often overlooked with narrative control is that it also can greatly simplify certain rules. At one point when we were playtesting Spycraft, we were banging our head over complicated chases. In this case, what happens when you have multiple prey and they split up into more groups than you have predators? How do we track where those who are no longer being chased? My solution was to cut through all the mechanics, and rely on narrative control. Anyone can re-join the chase at a dramatic point simply by spending an action die. Until that time, they simply aren’t tracked. This both greatly simplifies the system, and strongly enables the cinematic effects of teamwork.

    The next time you are starting to stress about how to figure out whether or not a player can succeed at doing some really off-the-wall task, just say, “spend a point, and it happens.” If they want to spend the point, it is important to them. If it’s not worth spending the point, it’s clearly not worth including in the story.

    (Oh, and nice post, btw!)

    1. This is absolutely what I was talking about. Perfect way to solve a difficult problem. And you are correct, if it matters to them they will use it. It is an excellent way to judge the importance of something.

      (Oh, and thanks!)

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