One year ago I started a “20 Year RPG” experiment, which I guess will run for 19 more years. :-) It was a purposeful move away from spending time tweaking and playing video games, only to have the underlying technology change so quickly, and towards building a sustainable game that can last decades.
About 6 players joined me (the number varies slightly over time), and in the last year we played 14 sessions for a total of over 200 hours of tabletop RPGs with friends. Our core group invited friends of friends, and we have slowly expanded to have a stable group of 4-5 players per session. We play for 3 hours on Thursday night, once every 2-3 weeks. (We “only” played 14 sessions because we all agreed to take a big break to play Conan last year.)
The world we play in is based almost entirely on procedural generation. The map we use, the settlement the characters are based in, the locations they explore and the creatures they encounter are all rolled up randomly. The reason this is a “20 Year” game is because I can spend time tweaking these systems, then put it in a shelf and pick it up 5 years later and it still works (unlike a video game).
We have had some memorable characters and some memorable deaths. A thief that was so dedicated to stealing a runestone from a magical glade that he didn’t care what the guardian Dryad would do to him. An evil cleric that was murdered after he chose to loot someone rather than helping them. A brave fighter that sacrificed himself to save the party from an ancient, powerful magical creature. We had 4 character deaths over the 14 sessions, so about 1 per 3-4 sessions.
The deadliness of the world, the reliance on procedural generation and the player-led sandbox all fit within the theme of an “Old School Revival” game. I reinforce that by adding old school monsters (Bulettes and Basilisks) to the randomly rolled up creatures (organized boar-people and ancient worm-things), and using old school media like the writing of Fritz Leiber and the drawings of Larry Elmore as inspiration.
We started off using a Dungeon World variant for our rule system for the first 10 sessions. It was an excellent primer to old school gaming, but after a while the overly random character generation and rules effects (murderous evil clerics as PCs, with casting failures that led to permanent statistic damage, etc) in addition to the hard (for me) to adjudicate nature of the Powered by the Apocalypse System, pushed me to design my old system, “Year of the Basilisk”. It’s based on a number of things, including Runequest and many modern OSR-clones, and we continue to refine it in play. Happy to share the system of others are curious, I plan to publish it in a few months.
We play online using a combo of simple platforms. Roll20 is the virtual tabletop. I import a few maps, add a token with a picture for be characters, and simple abstract tokens for the enemies. We use fog of war and dynamic lighting, so the character’s lanterns reveal the darkness as they explore the dungeon. We use Discord for voice. We use Google Sheets for the characters, mostly so the sheet can evolve as we refine the rules. And we use Trello for keeping notes about the world and the chapter write-ups. The player Trello is public:
I send out an anonymous survey to the players once per quarter. So far our “player satisfaction” score is 4.8 out of 5.