I've been wondering about whether or not Maze Rats (and other similar rules-light OSR games such as Into the Odd, Searchers Into the Unkonwn, etc.) can actually support long-term (6+ months, or years long) campaigns, and in your opinion, why/why not?
A lot of people have told me these "mini" games are designed for short-term gaming and won't really work after a while. Yet Dungeons & Dragons itself is an extremely simple game, and still offers the possibility of virtually endless campaigns spanning generations, if one is so inclined.
My question may as well be "what makes D&D different than other old-school (say, Traveller) and OSR games (say Maze Rats, or Into the Odd because straight clones are just D&D) ?"
In a lot of gaming circles, rule zero (the Referee is the rules) is considered only as a secondary thing or as a potential argument in rules discussions, but not as a drive for play, which may explain why people expect that to get long campaigns, you need elaborate, complex systems of pre-established rules. If people in here don't see potential issues in running longer campaigns with simple systems, that would prove my impression correct - plus, I'd like to know if people are aware of games such as Maze Rats and Into the Odd and how you feel about these.
An awesome question. I'm not familiar with "Maze Rats" but I have looked through some pretty simplistic versions of D&D. Personally, I think that they are too minimal for my taste but I see no reason why a long-term campaign couldn't be run using those rules sets. The secret would be, I think, to start minimal and start adding in stuff as the campaign evolves -- in other words if a rule doesn't exist just house rule the thing and make a note of what you did for future reference. That's how many of my early OD&D games were played.
The biggest issue for me would be that some of the minimalistic rules sets don't really allow characters or their actions to be that different. If all are the same, I think the game would grow stale more quickly.
Fundamentally, a campaign does NOT require a lot of rules depth. I ran many Boot Hill 1E campaigns back in the day, and those are mostly a miniatures combat simulator, so it's not like you need really complex rules to run a good campaign.
Marv / Finarvyn DCC playtester (2011) S&W WhiteBox author (2009) C&C playtester (2003) Builder of the TrollBridge for T&T; Amber Diceless player since 1993 OD&D Player since 1975; Metamorphosis Alpha since 1976
"Don't ask me what you need to hit. Just roll the die and I will let you know!" - Dave Arneson
Your answer comforts me in my initial assertion that the matter may not really be whether or not X games can be used to run long-term campaigns, but how a majority of gamers easily catalogue certain games (here, those with a short enough page count to be considered "lite") as one-shot/beer & bretzel games whereas others of more "serious" reputation will get more attention.
In my gaming circles, I've been happy to notice a growing enthusiasm for the original edition of the game over last year, but for a while my appreciation of the game was dismissed as the ramblings of a nostalgic "purist" despite the old-school renaissance having already established that the now majorly popular B/X or AD&D were not "just old stuff that people go back to out of nostalgia".
Maze Rats is a very fun game, that the author wrote to have a simpler system than D&D for his fifth graders to play with. One of its strength is the large number of random tables that are very much system-neutral and can be used with any fantasy game.
"some of the minimalistic rules sets don't really allow characters or their actions to be that different"
I would argue that the little brown books don't really provide a lot of different stuff for characters to do beyond the different class possibilities (and I'm running a fighting-men, humans-only campaign right now, although considering adding more stuff in the future). Or at least, the rules themselves don't provide much, but as referees it's usually our house rules and setting-based additions to the game that'll create these gameplay possibilities.
I don't have Maze Rats here right now, but many of the "rules-light" games lack customization and development options for the characters, which is something my players would miss in a longer campaign. Sometimes the stat modifiers (attribute or attack bonuses, for example) are of a range which cannot be easily expanded without making the game unbalanced. Other games just use a mechanic of advantage/disadvantage, where a skill gives advantage (as in D&D 5e, adding a die and counting the best result(s)) but that only allows for a simple Have-It/Don't-Have-It skill system without a means to improve further. Of course you can just add some more dice, but that may easily "break" the game if you don't cap it at some point. With all that in mind, you may of course add rules to allow improvement and support long-term play, but then you often will no longer be playing the rules-light game you started out with. And then you might just start with a different system which is already built with long-term play in mind.
Post by DungeonDevil on Jan 28, 2019 23:16:02 GMT -6
If by "mini-game" you mean "beer-n-pretzels"/"one-off" products meant for a brief timekiller, it would likely take a lot of houseruling to get it up to the level of complexity necessary for long-term, campaign-style gaming.
Yet Dungeons & Dragons itself is an extremely simple game...
EH?! Come again?!
I'm not familiar with Maze Rats.
Welp...I've just watched the vid on Youtube.
My appraisal is that it is likely too simple, and probably wouldn't work for any protracted serial-gaming.
If I want rules-light (relative to OD&D, that is), I usually go with Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2E, which works well.
hamurai: yet OD&D doesn't really feature a large array of character options. You pick one of 8 character types with some other variables (alignment, languages, starting gear, maybe spells) at chargen, but after that progression is mostly vertical: you get better at what you can already do, but you don't really get new ways to handle problems except for magical items, which are not unique to any game. While I can see how some people might want to add to that, it has been established before that you can run years of gaming with just that.
DungeonDevil: about D&D being simple, I don't know how to emphasis it further, it's a given for me. The three little brown books are a game that I can re-write all of the mechanics from by memory alone, and run on-the-fly without any notes or rulebooks. You can't really go simpler than that. Most of the rules-light games I've seen have more mechanical complexity than OD&D, such as variable weapon damage, statblocks for monsters requiring more than one number (a goblin in OD&D can be written as: Goblin, 1-1HD, leather, rat-on-a-stick, and even that is verbose for what it is).
Maze Rats supports play up to seventh level, with horizontal progression being possible (no classes mean you can either specialize as a fighter or wizard or acquire a variety of different broad skill sets, and nothing prevents a productive referee to add more of these if the players want more options). The large number of tables and the excellent advice for setting up dungeon, wilderness and urban adventures ensure a steady flow of interesting prep to use; the only pet-peeve I have with it is that I prefer ability scores to be descriptive and grounded in fiction (you can easily imagine a STR 15 or STR 8 dude) whereas the +0, +1, +2 system feels a bit off (although it can be fixed by recording an appropriate descriptor).
My appraisal is that it is likely too simple, and probably wouldn't work for any protracted serial-gaming.
Could you elaborate on why you feel that way? I'm under the impression that this reaction is a sort of taught instinct based on my prior assertion that some games, when presented as "rules-light" will be easily categorized as one-offs even when they're not necessarily that different from OD&D.
it would likely take a lot of houseruling to get it up to the level of complexity necessary for long-term
Would you say Classic Traveller, or the Three Little Brown Books, have enough complexity for long-term play without house rules?
I would like to clarify that for the purpose of this discussion, I'm assuming that Maze Rats, like D&D and like any game, implies not only the system as-is but any further modifications that would keep the spirit of the rules mostly intact (the game is actually the only one I know besides D&D that tells you to fit the rules to your needs, so it'd be unfair to consider it as a solid, finite state while treating OD&D as "potentially anything via house rules").
No. Both he and Chris McDowall (author of Into the Odd) have only attempted to run short campaigns with their own games, so the possibility of running longer games with these is still up for exploration.
hamurai : yet OD&D doesn't really feature a large array of character options. You pick one of 8 character types with some other variables (alignment, languages, starting gear, maybe spells) at chargen, but after that progression is mostly vertical: you get better at what you can already do, but you don't really get new ways to handle problems except for magical items, which are not unique to any game.
Indeed. What I also meant was that many rules-light games lack even vertical progress. You start with a set of skills and abilities which don't improve.
I've had a quick look at Maze Rats now. I'd say it'd work for a longer campaign. You could slow progression by not giving out XP for just showing up to the game, for example. Assuming the characters in a campaign would have to overcome a difficult challenge every session (and get 2 XP every session), you'd have 21 sessions till level 7 (maximum in the rules).
Leveling up indefinitely would increase HP to insane amounts, but you could cap that or slow progression after level 7 to 1 HP/level.
Inventing new paths to choose from will expand "skill" options.
Gaining new spell slots every 2 levels (if desired) will probably make wizards overpowered at some point, but the game supports specializing (min-maxing) by default, as you could - as a fighting type - always choose the +1 attack bonus, for example. But that still only gives a +3 bonus at level 7 which will hit a heavily protected monster at a 6+.
Assuming you play with the standard ability values, your players will be maxed out by level 18 with a +4 in each ability. At that point they'd have 40 HP (or 26 if you use the "+1 HP after level 7"-rule). Assuming further that you don't invent new paths, player characters will have the chance to get all paths, and +4 to attacks or +4 spell slots, for example.
If you want to play more heroic characters, I'd say you can just add levels on top of the 7 supported by the rules and be fine. The only thing too limited in the RAW would be paths, but the rest works.
My first house rule when running Maze Rats was to add three 000 to each XP requirement and give 1XP per Gold acquired, this way the progression is similar to that of an OD&D Fighting-man (irregular, with the occasional big loot). I wouldn't want to allow higher character level than 7 though - at seventh level, you stop gaining XP and may retire if you want. Doesn't mean you can't keep adventuring. It's not too far from a 9th or 12th level cap in D&D; may be too early with the standard XP rate, as you pointed out.
On the Maze Rats G+ group, a suggestion for "Heroic" level was to simply allow for 7th characters who had "specialized" to get a new option unavailable for lower levels, like a +1 to damage bonus for "Fighters", the ability to record spells to pick one they get for "Wizards", etc.