I’ve been running my Rose of Westhaven LOTFP campaign for a little while now, we’re running every other week (schedules allowing) and have just wrapped up session 4 (as of the time of writing this blog).
Prior to running this campaign my experience of playing OSR style games was minimal and my experience with running it was non-existent, although I’ve been a fan of the idea of OSR for a while and have been steadily accumulating games such as White Star, ASSH 2E, LOTFP and the like, so I’m by no means an expert. Given that I’m still finding my way around the whole OSR deal–although my players seem to be enjoying it at the moment–and having come more from a background of highly cinematic games such as Fate, one thing that I have noticed is that the combat in OSR games seems to be extremely deadly.
Deadly compared to what?
I’ve recently been lucky enough to start playing in a couple of excellent D&D 5E campaign, that I’m very much enjoying, in 5E it seems to me that–given the amount of abilities and manoeuvres that a PC can pull off–that there are numerous ways to stack the odds in your favour or improve your chances of triumphing in combat, even at lower levels. Whereas in LOTFP beyond getting some better equipment, aiming or attacking an enemy from behind, there isn’t a great deal that you can do mechanically to influence your chances of triumphing in a combat.
(Disclaimer: This might change when you hit higher level, like I said, I’m fairly new to OSR.)
For example: In a recent Tomb of Annihilation 5E that we played, a small group of four first-level characters are exploring the treacherous jungles of Chuult, we’ve faced goblins, dinosaurs, basilisks and all manner of things. All these encounters were great fun but–aside from a couple of moments–we’ve been able to use our various powers and abilities to triumph over them without things getting too bad for the PCs.
Whereas, we’ve had a handful of combats in my Rose of Westhaven campaign (mostly against a humans with a couple of zombies thrown in for good measure), we’ve already had one PC death and a couple of others coming close. This isn’t to cast any aspersions on how either of the games are run, the 5E game has an excellent GM who runs a great game and I would hope that I’m running my LOTFP game okay, but it seems to me that the LOTFP characters have far less powers and things they can do to influence the mechanics of combat so the combat certainly feels deadlier.
So is this a bad thing?
I don’t actually think it is, I think both approaches are valid, while it’s cool having all the different powers and stuff you can do in 5E my players certainly seem to be enjoying the desperate nature of combats in LOTFP, knowing that each fight they get into could very easily be their last, courtesy of a stray pistol shot or rapier thrust. Combine this with the slower rate of advancement in LOTFP and it gives a more lethal (and dare I say dark and gritty) feeling to the game, I think that–as long as the GM keeps that in mind–it can result in a really fun game.