Norbert G. Matausch (author/designer)

"Old School 2d6 Gaming"

This game got onto my radar when Sophia Brandt posted about it on her blog, Die Heart. Though it's not specifically a solo RPG system, which is often the focus of Sophia's writing, it is a simple, lightweight, old school system. The rules are $3.49 and have been in my RPGnow.com wishlist for some time; I just pulled the trigger while I was buying a couple of other cheap things. I think the public domain art cover and cool name helped swing me over.

I enjoyed reading this one for ideas. I'm not sure I would play it, though it certainly looks playable. The magic system especially looks swingy but fun.

Norbert acknowledges his debt to other games: Pits & Perils, Blood of Pangea,* and the most popular roleplaying game in Germany in the 1980's. (Hint, it wasn't D&D.) He sets out his intent in the introduction to create something akin to the games of that decade: rules that have a clear influence from early war games and eclectic settings that have weird horror/SF elements mixed in with the fantasy.

The text is roughly 50 pages. After an introduction there are sections on:

  • Character creation
  • Cultures
  • Game rules
  • Cleric magic
  • Dark arts (magick)
  • Experience/advancement
  • Poisons
  • Conversion from other games
  • Monsters
  • Equipment

None of the sections are very long. I bolded the ones I most want to talk about.

I can't believe I want to talk about a section labeled "cultures." I normally hate setting material, but I really enjoy it when it is presented like this - one page per culture, quick descriptions and examples to help you invent. Notes on society, cities, and religion. Good stuff. This is how it's done; not like the gross bloat of most settings. I can quickly get ideas and an image of the overall world from these pages, without immediately wanting to take a nap (my reaction to most settings).

Though I'm not going to talk about the game rules, there are some interesting and kind of neat methods suggested for handling mass battles.

The cleric magic involves first determining your god's mood, with modifiers based on what came before/your current relationship. Then you roll on one of three tables (foul, neutral, good) by mood. That's cool. Also, both cleric and wizard magic draw on your health (Might), which I like.

Monsters: Acid Worm, Alien Life Form, Altaranian Butterfly... those are just the first three entries. Clearly the world is a nice old school blend of weird horror, SF, and fantasy. No illustrations for the monsters, sadly.

All in all a cool book and well worth the price. It does feel a little incomplete and inconsistent, but then most old school rules sets do, so I guess this one is 'authentic' to that early style of game. And in that, it delivers on some of its own promises in the introductory material.

* These games can be found at http://www.oldehouserules.com/. They look pretty cool. I actually have Diceless Dungeons somewhere and need to "pay the tax" on it.


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