Game Objects vs. Game Mechanisms

I think the most significant difference between “old school” and “new school” D&D is what players primarily attend to and how they interact with the obstacles placed in front of them in the game.

Old School: Players primarily interact with game objects which I define as the NPC’s, monsters, sentient magical constructs/devices, the PC’s physical surroundings (the natural world) and the forces of magic and divinity.

Dungeon Master: “You see a heavy oak door, reinforced with iron strapping. Its surface is battered. You can see someone has tried to hack through it with an axe. Beyond the door, your hear deep guttural voices, the clink of coins and the clatter of knucklebones followed by roars of laughter and groans of disgust. What do you do?”

Player: I carefully and quietly approach the door. I look for any trip wires, pressure plates and the like. Then I listen. How many voices do I hear?

New School: Players primarily interact with game mechanisms which I define as the rules and procedures utilized by the game’s participants to determine the outcome of actions made by characters, monsters or other entities in the game.

Dungeon Master: “You see a heavy oak door, reinforced with iron strapping. Its surface is battered. You can see someone has tried to hack through it with an axe. Beyond the door, your hear deep guttural voices, the clink of coins and the clatter of knucklebones followed by roars of laughter and groans of disgust. What do you do?”

Player: I make a perception check. <rolls dice> 22 What do I hear?

This is not an absolute. I am sure there are Dungeon Masters running 5E games that sound more like the “old school” example. It would be harder for a Dungeon Master running B/X or OD&D to run it in a new school style because the way the games were designed but I won’t rule out the possibility that a player might immediately go to the “hear noise” roll.   When I watch actual play videos or listen to actual play podcasts, the above is what I mostly see and hear. I prefer the older style.

One thought on “Game Objects vs. Game Mechanisms

  1. Pingback: Concept First, Mechanism Second – Grumpy Wizard

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