Last night, in the final session of our Gygax Memorial 1e AD&D game Jeff has been running, we finished clearing out the moathouse near Hommlet.
Up until last night, out performance had been kind of lame. Last night,I think, we got into the dungeoneering mindset. We set an ambush. We used decoys. We took advantage of those few tools we had at our disposal. As a result, our first level characters took out an evil cleric who was probably about 5th level… and who we could, generally, only hit on a 20.
The challenge – and rising to meet it – was fun. Coming up with clever solutions is one of those things that I enjoy about gaming. I suspect that a lot of people who are enamored of old-school gaming (including, but far from limited to, Jeff) see older games as more conducive to this sort of play. For some of them, it probably is. If you are GMing a game and you aren’t comfortable with the rules, you aren’t likely to be comfortable making calls on the fly – or pitting the PCs against challenges they’ll find near-impossible without ingenuity. Similarly, on the PC side, some of that cleverness in newer and more complex games can be internal to the character – whether it is a particularly neat build or a neat synergy between a couple of the PC’s abilities. Some of this is going to replace the need for situational cleverness unless the GM forces the issue with challenging encounters that don’t play directly to the strengths of the PCs.