A flexible RPG for our favorite genres
It may have a strange name, but What’s OLD is NEW is a fantastic and robust RPG that, in my opinion, successfully implements so many of our favorite aspects of RPGs in one core rule set. We all have different tastes when it comes to the things we enjoy about our games, and WOIN manages to bridge the gap between rules-light and rules-heavy game systems.
Rules light RPGs
Some of us are very freeform roleplayers; no need for complicated rules here! There are many rule sets that are basically a set of guidelines on how to interact with other players and how to resolve any action taken in game. These rules-lite RPGs can be very fun and engaging, but certainly lack much granularity and aren’t that appealing to players that enjoy the ‘game’ aspect of RPGs. A perfect example of this is FATE Accelerated.
Rules Heavy RPGs
Others of us love the thrill of crunching those sweet, sweet numbers. There are plenty of RPG game systems that provide a complex simulation of things like social encounters, adventuring, and combat . These types of games tend to rely on a lot of rolls, roll tables, and math. The great thing about these games is that you can truly feel like what has happened in the game is what really would have happened. I personally love this type of game. However, this level of depth will definitely slow down a game, and you’d better make sure that everyone playing likes this kind of crunch. The quintessential example of a heavy game would be the excellent Rolemaster.
WOIN is somewhere in the middle.
At it’s core, What’s OLD is NEW is a D6 dice pool system that combines attributes with skills to form a roll. This is slightly more complicated than the D20 system, as it requires a player to add up dice pools for each and every roll they make. This honestly hasn’t really been a problem in my games, because once the players get it, they get it. This is, however, where a lot of potential players and GMs will get hung up; it is more complicated than simply rolling a D20 and adding or subtracting a modifier. Add to this that each career you take will provide you with exploits (abilities that the character can invoke or use) that the players must remember to use, and a freeform skill system that doesn’t tie skills to attributes, and you’ve already scared off a lot of more rules-light type players. Still with me? Awesome.
However, it is not nearly as complicated as Rolemaster, or even D&D 3.5 Edition. One of the greatest aspects (in my opinion) of the system, is the freeform skill system, and will be a feather in the cap of rules light players who do decide to give this system a spin.
You’re good at what?
In WOIN, characters can choose any skill (relative to the career path they choose). They can even make up new ones. This means that I could have a Small Folk Assassin who is extremely skilled at basket weaving. Now, this may seem arbitrary, BUT stay with me! It is up to the player to use this basket-weaving skill in creative ways, and this encourages some awesome roleplaying and unforgettable moments. Here is an example:
Player: I sneak around the tent to try to listen to the conversation from the back side.
GM: You put your ear up to the tent, make a perception test. You fail? Okay, all you can hear is a dull mumble.
Player: OKAY. check this out. I want to try to tear a small hole in the tent without being noticed.
GM: Oh my. OKAY. Make a….Dexterity….
Player: Well, I’m awesome at basket weaving…could I use that? I have 2d6 dice in it.
GM: Basket weaving? Really? Alright…go ahead…Dexterity plus…basket weaving…
This type of creative use of skills is exactly what I look for in my games. I love mechanics that encourage roleplay, and this is exactly that. Finding ways to creatively yet effectively use your skills is awesome, and I’ve seen a LOT of fun moments come about as a result of this flexible system. Of course, the GM is able to deny ridiculous attempts to use completely irrelevant skills, but the onus is on the player to describe how and why their skills are applicable in this situation. Then, the GM can decide to grant part or all of their skill dice pool to their roll.
Life path Career System
On top of the great amount of flexibility afforded by the aforementioned skill system, the way WOIN approaches character creation and development is another one of it’s shining features. When creating your character, you start by first choosing a race, then you choose your origin. This is vaguely reminiscent of the ‘background’ system that other games use, however origins in WOIN actually contribute to your character’s build in a mechanically meaningful way. Let’s take a look at the Orphan origin and explore what it does for our character.
Orphan [2d6 +6 years]
Attributes: AGI +1, INT +1, CHA +1, LUC +1
This first part gives us the initial information we need about the origin. How long was my character an orphan (you can roll the suggested length or just decide yourself), and what attributes are affected by my choice?
One of my favorite aspects of this type of system, is that when deciding your origin and subsequent career paths, you can always work the the GM to slice out a unique place for your character. Perhaps I saw my character’s life as an orphan child as being filled with hard labor. In this case, perhaps I could substitute the Agility increase for a Strength increase. You can also write whatever backstory content you wish for each of these career path choices you make, making for a fully fleshed out character by the end.
Skill choices: brawling, stealth, thievery, running, bluffing, [performance]
Here is where we see our available skill choices. We’ve discussed skills before, but here we can see what type of skills an orphan may have picked up, and choose from the list. Of course, just as with the Attributes, you could craft out a unique set of skills choices based on the life you imagine your character having.
Urchin. You are very familiar with urban backgrounds, and are able to blend in easily. With a one-hour period in a new city, you are able to name local crime figures.
This is the exploits section, and for Origins, you only get one choice. For other career paths however, you’ll get many to choose from. These exploits are rather self explanatory, and provide your character with skills and abilities that ‘just work’; these exist as a reflection of your character’s life choices.
As you can see, the lifepath system that WOIN uses is very in depth and satisfying. This obviously makes it difficult to just quickly roll up a character and play, but once you’ve done it a few times, character creation can go by fairly quickly.
Not too many days go by that I’m not cracking open one of my three WOIN books. That’s right – there are three. Each one covers a genre of gaming that we all love. There is OLD, my personal favorite, which covers the medieval fantasy genre. Then there is NEW, which covers the Sci-Fi genre. And last but certainly not least, is NOW, which covers modern day genres.
These books are truly toolkits, as they provide tons of examples and options for creating all of your own content. If you’re interested in picking one up, go through one of my affiliate links so they know I sent you!
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