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[OSR] How vital is gold-as-xp to the OSR "feel?"

Zehnseiter

Registered User
Validated User
Most people are far more reasonable about what is "OSR" and what is not, especially as not everyone played the original editions as "heists in Fantasy Fucking Vietnam(TM)." If you're heavily based on an early edition and pretty much only have relatively minor tweaks, that's good enough for me to say it's OSR, even if it's not the "One True Way" that some say is mandatory for OSR. Heck, major changes that still keep enough of the aesthetics probably count. OSR is part of D&D, and D&D is large. It contains multitudes.
"One true way" is actually something the OSR should not bother with or even reject, given that it tries to invoke a way of gaming that happened during a time where you couldn't just go online and ask and talk about a game. Playing old school D&D can mean very different things depending in what group you played in your youth. Younger RPG games probably are played much more uniform then the old D&D editions.
 
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WistfulD

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That's kinda a good point. Some people are going to say that anything less than a 1:1 reconstruction of OD&D isn't "oldschool," or "OSR." I suspect because if they feel they are playing the Original D&D (TM), as it was Meant To Be, then they are doing it right. They're the ones playing True D&D.

Most people are far more reasonable about what is "OSR" and what is not, especially as not everyone played the original editions as "heists in Fantasy Fucking Vietnam(TM)." If you're heavily based on an early edition and pretty much only have relatively minor tweaks, that's good enough for me to say it's OSR, even if it's not the "One True Way" that some say is mandatory for OSR. Heck, major changes that still keep enough of the aesthetics probably count. OSR is part of D&D, and D&D is large. It contains multitudes.
These 'some people' and 'they' who think they are playing the True D&D the One true way (with lots of quote marks and trademark symbols) are conveniently intolerant goofballs that are fun to laugh over. Given that this is the internet, I'm sure there has been someone out there who has argued that anything less than {insert given interpretation of what the original done or intended gameplay actually was} is some kind of false/invalid/OSR, but for the purposes of this thread, does treating these people as more than an aberration or straw position serve a purpose? For the OP's question of 'is ____ vital to an OSR-style game?,' wouldn't it better serve our purposes to use a more reasonable theoretical opposition, such as 'a reasonable customer?' As in, 'would a reasonable customer feel undeceived if I marketed my RPG as an OSR game?' It tends to work for other fields like music (where, 'is this jazz' or the like can come up).
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
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That's kinda a good point. Some people are going to say that anything less than a 1:1 reconstruction of OD&D isn't "oldschool," or "OSR." I suspect because if they feel they are playing the Original D&D (TM), as it was Meant To Be, then they are doing it right. They're the ones playing True D&D.

Most people are far more reasonable about what is "OSR" and what is not, especially as not everyone played the original editions as "heists in Fantasy Fucking Vietnam(TM)." If you're heavily based on an early edition and pretty much only have relatively minor tweaks, that's good enough for me to say it's OSR, even if it's not the "One True Way" that some say is mandatory for OSR. Heck, major changes that still keep enough of the aesthetics probably count. OSR is part of D&D, and D&D is large. It contains multitudes.
That's also part of the issue of the hostility referenced in some places to West Coast playstyles; while the various things that are considered important by some showed up to some degree, a lot of it vanished like dew in contact with the expectations of people coming out of SF and fantasy fandom locally, even the ones with wargaming backgrounds. IME it was far more likely to see people playing two characters rather than mess with henchmen, for example (which doesn't mean every group did that, but the ones that didn't also didn't want henchmen). At most you might see a guy brought along to manage the mules and suchlike.

I honestly can't remember whether most people did gold-as-xp or not; I'm not sure as a player, I'd even have known.
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
These 'some people' and 'they' who think they are playing the True D&D the One true way (with lots of quote marks and trademark symbols) are conveniently intolerant goofballs that are fun to laugh over. Given that this is the internet, I'm sure there has been someone out there who has argued that anything less than {insert given interpretation of what the original done or intended gameplay actually was} is some kind of false/invalid/OSR, but for the purposes of this thread, does treating these people as more than an aberration or straw position serve a purpose? For the OP's question of 'is ____ vital to an OSR-style game?,' wouldn't it better serve our purposes to use a more reasonable theoretical opposition, such as 'a reasonable customer?' As in, 'would a reasonable customer feel undeceived if I marketed my RPG as an OSR game?' It tends to work for other fields like music (where, 'is this jazz' or the like can come up).
The problem is that the extent games usually bucketed as OSR don't seem to show enough consistency to suggest what that market would want. Even questions like "do you avoid combat or not" seem to be less than clear in how its taken. You can make some general trends--the more twiddly bits you get in character structure the less it seems to appeal to OSR guys, who associate that with 3e and on period gaming--but its really hard to assess when it comes to something like the OPs question, because it makes some assumptions about not only what time frame the potential customer is using for his image of OSR, but how originalist the games he saw were even then (as noted, I ran/played OD&D from about the start of 1975 until late in 1978, but some of the experience some people describes is really foreign to me because of the context I first encountered the game and carried forward from there).
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
Of course, gp=xp ties into a lot of things, like the idea that you might have level 2 characters running around with level 8 characters, more or less acting as hirelings until their buddies can funnel a chunk of cash their way and level them up.
Well, if it was based on gold-earned rather than gold-assigned, it didn't matter (which is what I saw); the kind of treasure/xp an 8th level party got when split six ways or whatever would bootstrap low level characters at least up to middlin' levels right quick. They'd always lag a little behind, but it wasn't hard for it to only be a level after a while, and that wasn't that big a deal in OD&D.
 

Shade the Lost

Registered User
Validated User
Given the amount of knowledge that is needed to be shopping for OSR and not just D&D, I'm not sure if the jazz analogy holds, except insofar as there's a lot more jazz out there to the layman than to the purist or originalist. That is, I take the stance that trying to define something as "not jazz," "not OSR," or even "not D&D" is overwhelmingly going to be gatekeeping aimed at Othering the subject of their ire in the eyes of others.

Edit: tl; dr: if you think your game is OSR, despite lacking, say, xp for gp, it's almost definitely OSR, barring some weird corner case.
 

Malrex

Registered User
Validated User
Gold as XP for me was never part of the OSR experience.

The reason for this are rather clear in my case.
Back then when this wasn't called OSR but "current edition" we already found that rule strange and house ruled it out. So for me actually using it in a OSR game would run counter to the feel and tone I want to evoke with the game.
In the beginning, we used gold=XP. It was fun, and still fun.
But I play in a group now who doesn't use gold=xp. It still has the same OSR 'feel' to me. I've noticed that instead of doing 'unheroic' things to get that extra few gold coins for the XP, that players were actually having their characters get more involved with the setting a bit more. That their actions mattered a bit more and that they needed to take responsibility for some of their character's actions if it affected others. Instead of eyeballing the candlesticks (50 gp ea.) in a NPC house, they were more focused on the roleplay with the NPC.

Might be different styles--but both are fun.
 

Jack Daniel

Relative Entropy Games
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I've tried XP for pure exploration (awarding some set % of a level-up for dungeon rooms visited and hexes explored), and while that's certainly closer to old-school than XP-for-kill-count, it doesn't quite incentivize the same thing. The players will stay proactive, and they will search every nook and cranny of your dungeon for secret doors and hidden sub-levels, but they will also ignore the lure of treasure and instead willingly barrel head-long into dangerous death-traps or fights with monsters that might be over their heads, if those things are perceived as "in the way" of finding more dungeon.

So you lose out on a lot. You lose out on a certain degree of PC survival instinct. You lose out on the drive to get the treasure and keep it. On the resource-managing, weight-of-equipment-vs-weight-of-treasure mini-game. On the justification to perpetrate heists instead of genocides on monster lairs. And above all, you lose out on the direct one-for-one association between player greed for XP and character greed for GP. That's the thing makes the players act as their characters ought; and for the DM, it's what makes awarding XP super concrete and tied to a number that actually exists in the game-world. There's no arguing that the players earned their 5,000 XP if they took possession of 5,000 GP—and that does wonders for the psychology of everyone involved.

I can't be timid about stepping on someone else's goodrightfun by pretending that all play-styles are equally valid and equally old-school. (I won't speak to OSR anymore, that's something else entirely.) Gold-for-XP is definitely where it's at if you want a campaign driven by heists and resources.

And if that's too non-heroic, replace with something else that has a number and physical weight, both measurable in the game world. Want the PCs to be knowledge-obsessed folklorists? Award XP for ancient stone tablets carved with myths, prayers, legends, and history—but award 1 XP per 1 word on the tablet. Or for a more archaeological bent, by some combination of the weight and cultural import of literal artifacts that they pull out of dungeons. Or for a magic-focused campaign, by how much usable arcane power the mage's guild back in town can leech out of the glowing pink crystals found buried all over the place in this one unique-in-all-the-wide-world dungeon that serves as the focus of the campaign. But the objective reward needs to be countable, and it needs to include a trade-off against dropping the rations and gear the PCs brought into the dungeons with them.
 
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Allandaros

Validated Parking
Validated User
I can't be timid about stepping on someone else's goodrightfun by pretending that all play-styles are equally valid and equally old-school. (I won't speak to OSR anymore, that's something else entirely.) Gold-for-XP is definitely where it's at if you want a campaign driven by heists and resources.
I concur that Gold-for-XP is frickin' amazing and removing it can lead to knock-on-effects, but indeed I would argue that swapping it out for something else is 100% in the spirit of tinkering and OSR As Fuck (regardless of whether this matches up with "D&D As Played Back In The Seventies Tee Emm"). I think that fiddling with alternative pathways for XP is one of the areas that hasn't been plumbed fully.

And if that's too non-heroic, replace with something else that has a number and physical weight, both measurable in the game world....But the objective reward needs to be countable, and it needs to include a trade-off against dropping the rations and gear the PCs brought into the dungeons with them.
I definitely agree that concrete metrics for XP gain are major for driving player incentives and providing the players with a tool by which to interact with the campaign world. But if the goal is a more heroic frame, then under those circumstances it's not unreasonable to shift to an XP framework that doesn't necessarily hinge upon maximizing retrieval-from-dungeon. (Of course, one might then want to find some other framework that incentivizes that sort of tension...)
 

seanairt

Registered User
Validated User
It sounds to me that the problem here is not so much the OSR label itself and more the specific person you're using as a gatekeepers. Your game might not seem like OSR to that person but that really doesn't mean too much.
I'd agree 100% with this. I and a large number of gamers I know consider, for example, both Traveller and Runequest to be OSR games. While money / credits can be very central to the game, neither does "gold = XP". Hell, Traveller has even been accused of not having an experience system at all! Way too often people conflate OSR with D&D clones, and that's a definition of OSR I personally could never accept.
 
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