Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Old School Grind

Joseph Bloch, in his Greyhawk Grognard blog says something very interesting about what is described about the Old School Grind. I have heard a lot from many players denouncing the 'kill the monsters-steal their treasures-rinse and repeat' aspect of old school gaming. Without going into the relative merits of either side in that argument, I, instead, find a lot of gaming wisdom in Joe's observations:

"I think that the "old school" approach to dungeon exploration is not to clear the level and then move down to the next. At least, as it applies to the megadungeon; certainly smaller dungeons might well be designed with the ultimate objective to be "wipe out all the goblins who are raiding the halfling village". But in the old school approach, you're not out to kill the monsters. You're out the get their treasure. In the old school approach, a plethora of monsters might actually be considered a boon. There's a tribe of orcs a few corridors away from a derro outpost? The "grind" mentality would say, take out the orcs, then move on to the derro. The old-school mentality would say, get the orcs to fight the derro through clever play, and take their chest of gold while they're busy hacking each other to bits.

So I think that any grind you can come up with, short of something that was just one room after another, completely linear, stuffed with monsters, the old school could turn into a tactical challenge. That's why there are all those seemingly useless corridors; flanking! And there's no stat check for strategy."

I think I'll sit down with my players before this Friday's game and have a short chat with them about this. I feel it would go far to advance our ongoing game if people kept this in mind.


  1. I guess that is the down side of the overly "gamey" system. When its "gamey" it leaves little room for thinking out of the box or sideways. Its all there, so much capital is sunk in the dressings towards a linear goal, instead of being flexible enough to try other tricks and tactics.

  2. Ultimately it will depend upon the players to make their own strategy to deal with what they are confronted with. They can make a frontal assault or go from the side or sneak up from behind. It might be longer, it might not work as it is supposed to or the target may have moved but they make their moves in response to what you present to them. Knee-jerk response is "ATTACK!!" while somebody might have a brighter idea if another party member goes at it unilaterally nothing much they can do (half the party wants to rig a shield out of a tree while the rest decide its taking too much time and simply attacks, sound familiar?)