System Mastery 230 – White Box

White Box S

Let’s GOSR!  This here is one a them retro-type clones where the goal was extremely straightforward:  The author liked Sword & Sorcery White Box and wanted another edition, so here it is.  Wanna play as a Dwarf?  That can be up to level 6 as a thief(optional)?  Well you an probably buy about three million other games.  Or this one!




3 responses to “System Mastery 230 – White Box

  1. Banger episode as always, guys. I feel bad when you guys review OSR games for exactly the reason you brought up; everyone comes in clamoring to announce that it’s No True OSR and you have to try again to get the “feel” of the genre. I’m a fan of the style myself, it’s not my favorite but I think a classic dungeon delve with some simple rules can be a great time. The key problem with OSR is it’s based on a “feeling” more than anything else. It’s supposed to represent the kind of DnD “I” grew up playing, where “I” is a very specific person. This DnD could be Original, or Basic and Expert, or full BECMI, or the Rules Cyclopedia, or Advanced 1e, or Advanced 2e, or it could be any of these but full of homebrew and incorrect rules that the person teaching you didn’t realize they got wrong. So there’s a hundred different OSR games that represent a hundred different versions of DnD, and they’re all very similar but specifically different. So it’s hard to take the complaints of “well that’s not real OSR” seriously because there hardly is a “real” OSR except for the OSR that commenter very specifically likes.

    I found the main complaint you guys brought up very interesting, because this is a weird case where an OSR game falls to the same problem that I personally think 5e falls to as well; in trying to spread their net so wide to include so many different clashing viewpoints, the whole book just feels limp and inconclusive. So many rules are optional, and almost every rule has a counter-version that is the exact opposite, because maybe people would prefer it that way. In fact, you specifically say the exact phrase that I’ve used to criticize 5e in the past; “it should be up to your GM! The GM should do ALL OF THE WORK so we don’t actually have to write a book but you still have to pay us for it!” (luckily this PDF is free I believe so that’s not as big of an issue but it’s critical for Wizards). I really respect and enjoy customizability in my TTRPGs, but usually that comes from me tinkering with the rules myself, rather than the book specifically telling me “this is optional”. If it’s a rule in the book and I don’t like it, I simply will not use it and I don’t need your permission. It’s just so weird to me to see this OSR game, which are ostensibly made because “that new-fangled DnD just isn’t good enough for me, I want the old DnD I used to play back in my day!”, has literally the exact same problems modern DnD has anyway, so like, what am I even doing?

    But like I said, I love customizability in my games. I love optional rules and toolbox systems. Jef brought up DnD 2e as being overwhelmingly optional and that’s part of why it’s my favorite old-school brand of DnD; I like that I can basically just do whatever I want with it with a basic ruleset attached. But that is absolutely not the case for everyone. It’s exhausting to sit down with a checklist of rules and go “okay, so I wanna play a game. I wanna use this rule and this rule but not that rule, and I don’t know what this rule does so I’m not sure if I wanna use it yet, I’ll mark that and come back to it later, and this rule I’ll have to read the book again to understand fully…” Sometimes you just wanna open a book and say “okay, here’s the game, here’s my story, let’s roll some dice”. A game doesn’t really need a bunch of optional rules to be customizable, that is an inherent advantage of TTRPGs as a medium. Will I get in trouble for using 2d10 or 3d6 for my rolls in DnD instead of 1d20? Absolutely not. Will it cause some unforeseen issues because I’m tweaking a core part of the rules? For sure. Do I have the god-given right to keep working on that specific idea and tweaking other rules to try to make it fit, trying it over and over to see what works? Without a doubt, I do, and no book had to tell me it was an optional rule for me to do it.

    I think the criticism was fair, and it’s very clear that you guys are more modernist in your hobby. Modern games have a lot of quality of life improvements that had to be sanded out after decades of play, and a significant portion of OSR is playing that pre-modern version, warts and all. The appeal is frequently very personal and it’s the most “not for everyone” form of TTRPG I think I’ve ever seen. Respect the history, appreciate the modern, that’s my ethos. Thanks for reviewing these games, even if you personally don’t like the genre and that gets you a lot of bristly, thorny comments from slighted OSR fans who insist you simply didn’t play “the right game”. After four attempts, you certainly should have the right to say whether you like it or not.

    Also, you guys mentioned you reviewed Godbound? When the heck was that? I really love Godbound and I’d love to hear what you guys have to say about it.

  2. Oh, you have definitely read more games where the alignment system just had the Law-Chaos axis.
    Because you’ve reviewed Basic D&D.

  3. I am fine with you not watching Arcane. It’s all mine and I love it, and the less people watch it, the less chance somebody will complain on the internet and ruin the 2nd season.

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